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Guelph Treasure Archive Materials on Display in Ingalls Library

The Ingalls Library and Archives staff has organized a small display of photographs, letters, and newspaper clippings related to the museum’s acquisitions of objects from the world-renowned Guelph Treasure in 1930. This display will remain on view in the library’s reference area through Friday, December 3, 2010, free and open to the public. This display in the library is on view now to coincide with the exhibition Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion. Objects from the Guelph Treasure are included in the exhibition. In August 1930, museum director William Milliken purchased what was to become one of the museum’s greatest medieval acquisitions: six pieces from the Guelph Treasure. Owned by the ducal house of Hanover, the treasure consisted of 85 devotional objects dating from the 11th to the 15th centuries. It was housed for over nine centuries in the Cathedral of Saint Blaise in Braunschweig , Germany. By 1930 the world financial crisis and the devalued German mark forced the Hanoverian family, headed by Duke Ernst August II, to sell the treasure. Four German art dealers attempted to sell the entire collection, but no one could afford the $10 million price tag. Ultimately, individual items from the collection were purchased for a total of $5 million. Milliken was in the right place at the right time. He was able to view the Guelph Treasure before the official opening of an exhibition in Frankfurt and was offered first choice of any of the objects. Authorized by the museum’s board of trustees to spend up to $200,000, he selected six of the most beautiful and important objects. Milliken returned to Cleveland triumphant, with a promise from the four art dealers that the entire Guelph Treasure would be shipped to Cleveland for exhibition in January 1931. The items included in the display attest to the excitement the Guelph Treasure generated in Cleveland. After only three weeks, 77,000 visitors had seen the exhibition. Before the collection left Cleveland for Detroit, Milliken was able to convince the museum’s board of trustees to purchase three additional pieces from the Guelph Treasure. The Ingalls Library is open Tuesday-Friday, 10:00-5:00 and on Wednesday evenings until 9:00.

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