Demi Boyd, Assistant Curator at the Scottish Football Museum in Hampden Park tells us about a highlight in their collections; the Scottish Cup.
‘I have recently joined the Scottish Football Museum as Assistant Curator based within Hampden Park. The museum has been part of Hampden since 2001 with a purpose built area for the museum in the refurbished main stand; prior to this the museum was housed in the Transport Museum at Kelvinhall. One of my first tasks was to assist the curator, Richard McBrearty, at the Scottish Cup Final as the museum holds the focal point of the tournament – the Scottish Cup.
The Scottish Cup, formally known as the Scottish Football Association Challenge Cup, has been recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest trophy in association football as well as the oldest national trophy in the world. The Scottish Cup dates to 1873 and was made by renowned silversmiths George Edward & Sons in Glasgow costing 56 pounds and 13 shillings at the time. The cup has been competed for and sought after by Scottish teams since the 1873-74 football season. Each year the cup is presented to the captain of the winning team of the Scottish Cup Final and taken on a lap of honour around Hampden Park. The remainder of the year the trophy lives in a case in the Scottish Football Museum for all to view. The cup really has two identities; as a museum object with a recognised status and as a sought after trophy for a key tournament. The curatorial team of the Scottish Football Museum are charged with finding the balance between these two identities and the Scottish Cup Final is a break from the norm for the curators!
In 2001 the decision was made to create a replica club cup which would remain with the winning team for a year and the original would be safe guarded in the museum. Prior to this the original trophy would be kept by the winning team and returned the following year before the final. It was predicted by conservators that unless this action was taken holes would start to appear in the cup due to over polishing and contact with corrosive substances. Over the years the cups have retained a little damage due to the nature of changing hands and it is the role of the conservator to try to minimise the damage as best possible. The cups have survived the bashes and bruises of many celebrations over the years. In the days running up to the final the cups are polished by a conservator – the original cup is now only cleaned twice a year, before and after the presentation.
The Scottish Cup Final is a unique day for the museums curatorial staff as we remove the cup from the safety of its case and it becomes a working object for the day. The curatorial staff takes responsibility for the original trophy and the replica on the day, and we escort both cups to various commitments throughout the day and at all times the security of the cup is priority. The cups are transported in specially created cases to minimise potential hazards, although navigating large cases around a busy stadium was not the easiest task at times. The important thing is for there never to be more than one cup on display in the public eye or in the media. The original trophy is taken to the SFA President’s lunch where it remains until shortly before the team presentation. The club copy of the trophy has various media commitments on the day and the demand is great; the trophy is taken between different TV studios within Hampden Park. With the second half under way both cups are retrieved and brought to the museum office for the remainder of the game.
In the run up to the final whistle the engraver arrives in the office to begin engraving the name of the winning team on both the original and replica trophy, this is often filmed by the media. Next the cups are dressed with ribbons in the colours of the winning ready for presentation. Once the runners up have been presented with their medal it is time for the trophy to be presented to the winners – we are given the nod by the SFA and the original cup and plinth are then brought out by the curatorial staff. This year Richard carried out the plinth and I followed behind with the cup, rather naively I hadn’t really thought about carrying out the cup in front of stadium packed full of ecstatic football fans and the fact that moment would be televised until the last minute or I would have been much more nervous about tripping! Once the cup is on the plinth, I quickly check the ribbons haven’t been tangled up and we then step away and the cup is lifted by the captain to carry on a centuries old tradition. The team then takes the trophy on a lap of honour around the pitch – which can sometimes cause concern from a conservative perspective! Meanwhile the curatorial team take the replica club cup down to the winning teams changing room, when the team comes off the pitch the trophies are then swapped out of the public view.
Once the crowds have faded away we then return the original trophy to its case to be admired for another year before it lives out its true purpose at the end of next season. The curatorial staff collects two match programmes of the game as part of our contemporary collecting policy, the programmes are accessioned in to the collection and preserved for generations to come. While this was my first experience of the Scottish Cup Final, it’s now a tried and true operation for Richard and the curatorial staff. It was an incredible experience and like no other, the atmosphere at Hampden was phenomenal and it was great to see a museum object at its centre.
The Scottish Football Museum’s website an be found here.