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The East of England hosts treasures this summer as Stories of the World unfolds across the region

  • Date: 8 August 2012
  • Area: South East
Gold belt plaque - Xuzhou Museum, Jiangsu Province, The Search for Immortality, Fitzwilliam Museum

Gold belt plaque - Xuzhou Museum, Jiangsu Province, The Search for Immortality, Fitzwilliam Museum. Credit: Fitzwilliam Museum

Eastern Exchanges is a cultural festival celebrating the East region's heritage alongside the celebrations of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, as part of Stories of the World.

It has allowed people across the East of England the opportunity to discover some of the world’s greatest hidden treasures and interpret them in a new and inspiring way, creating new museum exhibitions and discovering the secrets and stories of China, India and Pakistan.

The Stories of the World programme, led by Arts Council England and part of the London 2012 Festival has given young people across the UK the opportunity to work with curators of many museums and exhibitions. It showcases a major programme of exhibitions, events, artist residencies and community projects.

Helen Lax, Regional Director, East, Arts Council England, said: ‘This is the first time so many museums have worked on a single project to support young people in developing new skills and gaining experience and confidence in a museum context. This project perfectly embodies the Cultural Olympiad’s core values: inspiring creativity, engaging with young people, allowing individuals and organisations across the country to make their mark and celebrate this phenomenal occasion in British history in their own unique way.’

Here are some exhibition highlights within the region.

Cambridge was proud to welcome the The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasure of Han China in May which opened at the Fitzwilliam Museum, an Arts Council England Renaissance Major partner museum. Exclusive to the city, the exhibition features over 350 priceless treasures from the Imperial tombs of the Han Dynasty. It is the most important exhibition of ancient Chinese royal treasures ever seen outside China, and residents from the city as well as across the UK have been flocking to explore this fantastic exhibition. It is open to the public until 11 November with many events and workshops planned in the area to compliment the exhibition.

Inside the stunning exterior of Colchester Castle over 70 treasures from the Nanjing Museum, the second largest museum in China are being exhibited. The awe-inspiring Treasures of China exhibition has been co-curated by 10 local students from The Gilberd School in Essex. The students were given the fantastic opportunity to visit China and have brought together their experience of its culture and their interpretation of the country to create this exhibition. It is open to the public until 7 January 2013.

Treasures of China represents the strong link that Essex County Council formed 24 years ago with the Foreign Affairs Office of Jiangsu Provincial People’s Government in China. In 2013, Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service will return the goodwill to China and will be sending their own treasures to the Nanjing Museum enabling people within China to experience a slice of history from the region.

Epping Forest District Museum opened their doors on the 7 July to the China in the East exhibition, which will be travelling across the region later in the year. China in the East showcases not only the incredible collections of Chinese culture and heritage collated from numerous museum collections across the region, but also includes videos and displays that have been created by young people as a response to these inspiring pieces. The exhibition will travel to the following locations:

  • 7 July to 25 September: Epping Forest District Museum
  • 5 October to 2 January 2013: Ipswich Town Hall
  • 2 Jan to 14 March 2012: Hertford Museum

At Wardown Park Museum in Luton, Around the World in Eighty Objects celebrates the diversity of the region. Young people have been busy collecting and curating artefacts from the museum as well as local people within the community and have created this exciting and original exhibition. The exhibition draws on the international characteristics of the region and is a celebration of Luton’s diversity and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is open to the public until 9 September.

The Stories of the World exhibitions have involved over 50 museums across the UK; it has provided a fantastic opportunity for people to get involved with their local museums and explore new ways of collaboration for now and in the future. To learn more, see http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/what-we-do/our-priorities-2011-15/london-2012/stories-world/