Presenting the Romans

Presenting the Romans: Interpreting the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site

Edited by Nigel Mills
Volume: 12
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 212
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt31nhq2
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  • Book Info
    Presenting the Romans
    Book Description:

    Issues in the public presentation and interpretation of the archaeology of Hadrian's Wall and other frontiers of the Roman Empire are explored and addressed here. A central theme is the need for interpretation to be people-focussed, and for visitors to be engaged through narratives and approaches which help them connect with figures in the past: daily life, relationships, craft skills, communications, resonances with modern frontiers and modern issues all provide means of helping an audience to connect, delivering a greater understanding, better visitor experiences, increased visiting and spend, and an enhanced awareness of the need to protect and conserve our heritage. Topics covered include re-enactment, virtual and physical reconstruction, multi-media, smartphones, interpretation planning and design; while new evidence from audience research is also presented to show how visitors respond to different strategies of engagement. Nigel Mills is Director, World Heritage and Access, The Hadrian's Wall Trust. Contributors: Genevieve Adkins, M.C. Bishop, Lucie Branczik, David J. Breeze, Mike Corbishley, Jim Devine, Erik Dobat, Matthias Flück, Christof Flügel, Snezana Golubovic, Susan Greaney, Tom Hazenberg, Don Henson, Richard Hingley, Nicky Holmes, Martin Kemkes, Miomir Korac, Michaela Kronberger, Nigel Mills, Jürgen Obmann, Tim Padley, John Scott, R. Michael Spearman, Jürgen Trumm, Sandra Walkshofer, Christopher Young.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-115-3
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xi)
    Nigel Mills
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Peter Stone
  7. Introduction: Presenting the Romans – Issues and Approaches to Interpretation
    (pp. 1-10)
    Nigel Mills

    The aim of this book is to explore and address a number of perceived issues in the public presentation of the archaeology of Hadrian’s Wall and of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire. It is relevant also to wider issues of public presentation of the Roman world in Britain and elsewhere and to the application of principles of good interpretation to periods of the past in which archaeology is a major source of evidence. The issues can be summarised as follows:

    1. Public presentation is generally very academic, focusing on the imparting of knowledge from academics and professionals to visitors...

  8. 1 Tradition and Innovation: Creating a New Handbook to the Roman Wall
    (pp. 11-22)
    David J Breeze

    The Handbook to the Roman Wall is an unusual publication. On one level it is a guidebook, albeit a detailed guidebook, to a single monument – Hadrian’s Wall – but as that monument is massive in its size and complex in the range of its elements, the Handbook is perforce a considerably larger guidebook than normal. Further, the Handbook is generally regarded as the statement of current knowledge and of those interpretations which command the support of the archaeologists working on the Wall. Hence, it is directed at a wide readership of visitors, archaeologists, cultural resource managers and the mythical general reader....

  9. 2 Re-enactment and Living History – Issues about Authenticity
    (pp. 23-30)
    M C Bishop

    No re-enactor can ever come anywhere near to the experience of being a Roman soldier, in much the same way as neither Laurence Olivier nor Kenneth Branagh could ever be Henry V. Each could and can think themselves into the part, assuming the mantle of the persona, but it will always (and can only) be mimesis, an impression of the desired model, perhaps coloured by the experiences and imagination of the individual playing the part and informed by research into the subject, but it is never the thing itself. Re-enactors (despite some extreme examples) cannot really eat, think, walk, drink,...

  10. 3 Reconstruction Drawings: Illustrating the Evidence
    (pp. 31-40)
    Susan Greaney

    This paper was originally put together and presented by the author and Dr Sarah Tatham, Interpretation Officer for the Free Sites Project at English Heritage, at the XXIst International Limes (Roman Frontiers) Congress in Newcastle upon Tyne in August 2009. The following chapter differs somewhat from the presentation given that day, for two reasons. The first is that the original paper was largely visual and by its nature a chapter in a book is more restrictive in terms of graphics. Secondly, the author’s thoughts and research on this topic have developed over the intervening two years. What follows is therefore...

  11. 4 Images from the Past: Fibulae as Evidence for the Architectural Appearance of Roman Fort Gates
    (pp. 41-46)
    Christof Flügel and Jürgen Obmann

    This chapter explores the use of designs found on fibulae as evidence of the architectural appearance (design, features, scale, dimensions, proportions) of Roman fort gates. The evidence suggests that the gateways were higher and grander in scale than previously thought. This conclusion has important implications both for our understanding of the role of gateways as monumental architecture expressing the power of the Roman Empire and for reconstructions of these gateways for public presentation. Many existing reconstructions are too low and convey a misleading impression to visitors.

    In 1990 a fibula (Fig 4.1) showing a three-storey gateway building with arched windows...

  12. 5 Multimedia Interpretation Techniques for Reconstructing the Roman Past at the Limes Museum in Aalen and at the Limes in Baden-Württemberg
    (pp. 47-54)
    Martin Kemkes

    In 2005, the Limes Museum in Aalen was provided with new media equipment, including a virtual reconstruction of Roman Aalen. At the same time a partial reconstruction of a Roman cavalry barracks was constructed at 1:1 scale in the adjacent archaeological park. These new installations jointly convey to visitors an impressive and easily understandable picture of the Roman past. These reconstructions play a vital educational role in establishing the Limes in the public consciousness, thereby helping to ensure better protection of the archaeology.

    The fact that large parts of the Upper German-Raetian Limes lie hidden in the ground, invisible to...

  13. 6 Vindonissa: Changing Presentations of a Roman Legionary Fortress
    (pp. 55-64)
    Jürgen Trumm and Matthias Flück

    The protection and presentation of archaeological structures is a century-long tradition in Vindonissa. Whereas older models and reconstructions tried to recreate the ancient situation as closely as possible, current approaches to presentation work consciously with abstraction and schematising. They invite the viewer to experience the process and methods of presentation and do not presume to offer definitive solutions. They attempt, rather, to entice the viewer into antiquity for a moment, to stimulate the imagination. Knowing the subjectivity of all history writing, the viewer is allowed, to a large extent, to create his own history of Roman Vindonissa.

    At Vindonissa, a...

  14. 7 Bringing to Life the Ancient City of Viminacium on the Danube
    (pp. 65-74)
    Snežana Golubović and Miomir Korać

    The present-day territories of the villages of Stari Kostolac and Drmno, situated about 95km south-east of Belgrade, lie within the limits of the urban territory of the ancient city of Viminacium, the capital of the Roman province Moesia Superior, named Moesia Prima in the late Empire. The ancient Roman city and military fort (covering an area of over 450ha of the wider city region and 220ha of the inner city) are now located under cultivated fields, across which artefacts and fragments of objects from Roman times are scattered. Exploration of the Viminacium cemeteries was undertaken during construction of the Kostolac...

  15. 8 An International View of Reconstruction
    (pp. 75-84)
    Christopher Young

    This chapter focuses on the issues surrounding reconstruction of UNESCO World Heritage properties, principally archaeological sites. It is written from the perspective of a national heritage body rather than from that of UNESCO itself, though the author has considerable experience of working with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the advisory bodies to the World Heritage Convention. The chapter attempts to interpret UNESCO guidance within the context of national policy and practice in the UK in particular, and of international guidance in general. Given the context in which it was originally delivered, as a paper at the 2009 Limes Congress,...

  16. 9 A Roman Museum for Vienna
    (pp. 85-92)
    Michaela Kronberger

    Until very recently, Vienna’s best preserved roman remains were difficult for visitors to find.

    The Roman Ruins, as this Wien Museum site was called, are six feet below ground, directly underneath the Hoher Markt square. The remains were discovered in 1948 during work on the city sewers and comprise remnants of officers’ houses. Two inconspicuous city council signs pointed the way through a restaurant to reach stairs that led down to the excavations.

    Despite poor signage, approximately 15,000 visitors found their way to the museum each year. An outing to the museum is a fixed date in the schedule for...

  17. 10 Woerden – Hoochwoert (Dutch Limes): Showing the Invisible
    (pp. 93-102)
    Tom Hazenberg

    In the Dutch city of Woerden, civil servants, local authorities, developers, enthusiastic citizens and archaeologists have succeeded, by working together, in revealing to the general public the city’s invisible Roman past. There are several reasons for this success. The aim of bringing the Roman past to life through visual display was an integral aspect of an archaeological heritage management programme, and served a range of purposes (social, historical, educational and commercial). The framework that was built for presenting the city’s Roman history concerned not only the hardware (pictures, displays etc) but also the people who use it, such as guides...

  18. 11 Mainlimes Mobil: Presenting Archaeology and Museums with the Help of Smartphones
    (pp. 103-112)
    Erik Dobat, Sandra Walkshofer and Christof Flügel

    Our special interest is the presentation of archaeological information to the public using modern technologies and moving images (Walkshofer and Dobat 2005). At the Limes Congress in Newcastle in 2009 we presented the film The Limes on the River Main. This film was designed to present the different forts of the Main Limes and its archaeological remains through the website www.museen-mainlimes.de. The challenge was to create a short 13-minute film that could be watched in sequences so that web designers could link a specific archaeological site directly to the corresponding sequence in the film.

    Based on that project we...

  19. 12 Voices from the Past: Presenting (re)Constructed Environments through Multimedia Technologies
    (pp. 113-118)
    Jim Devine

    Many visitors (and would-be visitors) to the Antonine Wall World Heritage Site find the task of interpreting and understanding the visible archaeological remains somewhat challenging. Over a number of years in the role of Head of Multimedia in the Hunterian Museum, and as an Associate Lecturer with the School of Computing Science at the University of Glasgow, the author has been exploring ways of addressing this issue. Multimedia technologies have the potential to aid in the presentation and interpretation of archaeological sites, and their associated artefacts held in local museums collections, for a wide range of public audiences.

    The coming...

  20. 13 Digital Reconstruction and the Public Interpretation of Frontiers
    (pp. 119-128)
    R Michael Spearman

    The study and description of history is fundamentally a process of reconstructing the past: piecing together fragments of documents, buildings and artefacts to create a believable story or illustration of people, events and places. For heritage professionals this process and its associated debate is the stuff of history. For exhibition interpreters it is less the debate and more the conclusions that matter. For the majority of the public it is the story. Balancing these sometimes very different levels of interest has never been easy. An acceptable level of accuracy for one group can be a source of obfuscation for another....

  21. 14 Information, Disinformation and Downright Lies: Portraying the Romans
    (pp. 129-138)
    Mike Corbishley

    It is not difficult to find images of the Romans and information about Ancient Rome in contemporary sources. There are cartoons, picture books for young children, Hollywood films, television comedies, websites, school textbooks and popular histories for the general public, children’s toys and violent computer games. This chapter discusses why the Romans and their barbarian enemies have been badly or incorrectly portrayed so often and for so long. In the UK, school textbooks from the 19th century and throughout most of the 20th century have often failed to present what classical texts, archaeologists and historians have revealed. More than that,...

  22. 15 Romanes eunt Domus?
    (pp. 139-146)
    Don Henson

    Borders and boundaries are a natural part of every society. We place ourselves behind walls to separate ourselves from others as part of the creation of our identity. These borders can be physical or metaphorical. The most extreme form of border is one where the person looking out from behind the wall assumes a position of superiority over those on the outside. But not all borders have to take this form. Borders which are not physically manifest or only virtual may have a more neutral flavour. Physical proximity is often seen as a threat whereas detached observation at a distance...

  23. 16 The Living Frontier: the Passing of Time on Hadrian’s Wall
    (pp. 147-156)
    Richard Hingley

    This chapter explores the legacies of Hadrian’s Wall in the physical and cultural landscape of the north of England. It also addresses how we might develop a rather different appreciation of the archaeological significance of the Wall. Archaeological accounts tend to emphasise the construction of the Wall during the AD 120s and its disuse as a Roman frontier structure in the early fifth century (see for example Symonds and Mason 2009). It is clear, however, that this monument did not suddenly cease to exist when Roman Britain came to an end. An alternative approach suggests that the considerable significance of...

  24. 17 The Hadrian’s Wall Interpretation Framework: Audience Research
    (pp. 157-170)
    Genevieve Adkins, Nicky Holmes and Nigel Mills

    In 2009 Hadrian’s Wall Heritage (HWHL) commissioned the Centre for Interpretation Studies, Perth College-UHL and Zebra Square to carry out a programme of public engagement research as part of the process of developing the Hadrian’s Wall Interpretation Framework. The purpose of the research was to explore and measure the views of a number of different audiences and stakeholders, all of whom were important both to the future sustainability of Hadrian’s Wall as an overall attraction and to all of the individual sites and museums. The research was informed by the market data and audience research already in existence. As such,...

  25. 18 The Hadrian’s Wall Interpretation Framework
    (pp. 171-180)
    Nigel Mills and Genevieve Adkins

    All Year 7 pupils who attend Burnside Business and Enterprise College in Wallsend explore aspects of Hadrian’s Wall, including its history. The college is located near Segedunum Roman fort and was designed with a ground plan based on the shape of a flattened Roman legionary helmet. Roz Elliott is Deputy Head and, for her and her students, perhaps the most important aspect of the Wall and all that it represents is how it helps to promote community cohesion by providing a context through which to explore contemporary issues of identity and multiculturalism. The soldiers stationed at Segedunum and at other...

  26. 19 Applying the Hadrian’s Wall Interpretation Framework
    (pp. 181-192)
    Nigel Mills, Tim Padley, John Scott, Lucie Branczik and Genevieve Adkins

    Hadrian’s Wall is one of the greatest monuments of the ancient world. It tells us as much about ourselves as about the past. We should take pride in it and help unlock its potential to teach, inform and stimulate our own and future generations. The purpose of the Interpretation Framework (Adkins and Mills 2011) is to enable us to do just that; to create a structure within which more detailed strategic planning and coordination can take place and through which each site and museum can build on its own particular strengths and opportunities to create distinctive, differentiated and complementary experiences...

  27. List of Contributors
    (pp. 193-198)
  28. Index
    (pp. 199-204)
  29. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-207)