Roman Frontiers in the UK: assessing what visitors value about the Roman past
Richard Hingley, Kate Sharpe
This paper arises from the ‘Ancient Identities’ project (http://ancientidentities.org), which is exploring public attitudes to the Iron Age and Roman past in the UK through a mixed digital and ethnographic methodology. We are addressing the UK and will report in this paper on some of the initial results of our
ethnographic research which is being undertaken at six Iron Age and Roman open-air museums across the UK. Initial interviewing has been undertaken at Vindolanda and we are planning comparable work on the Antonine Wall, perhaps next summer. The aim is to assess what visitors think about the Iron Age and Roman-period populations and what motivates them to visit ancient monuments and museums. We also seek to address the extent to which Iron Age and Roman heritage is valued and the variety of reasons for this. Although the ethnographic research is aiming to elicit open answers, the project also builds on earlier research that has argued the need to build a more critical perspective into the presentation of Roman military (and civil) heritage (cf. Mills 2013; Polm 2016, 230–1). The displays of the Roman army at
several museums across the UK suggests that the organisation is often promoted as has having had an enabling impact by building roads and infrastructure and creating the conditions for peace. Much recent academic research has built a rather more critical perspective about the Roman military, including ideas of dispossession, slaughter and prostitution (Mattingly 2006). To what extent might such negative messages potentially be discourage visitors? Can we find ways to tell more critical and nuanced stories about the Roman frontiers in such a way that it encourages public interest and involvement (Hingley 2017)? What do the public think about the materials that we display?
Hingley, R. 2018: ‘Frontiers and mobilities: the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site’. European Journal of Archaeology 21(1), 78–95.
Mattingly, D. 2006: An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire. London.
Mills, N. 2013: ‘Introduction: Presenting the Romans’. In N.
Mills (ed.) Presenting the Romans: Interpreting the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site. Woodbridge, 1–10.
Polm, M. 2016: ‘Museum representations of Roman Britain and Roman London, a post-colonial perspective’. Britannia 47, 209-241.
Viminacium: public presentation and visitor research
The Viminacium Archaeological Park was opened in 2006. Since then, it has been visited by more than one million people of various ages and nationalities. At the very beginning, there were three objects possible to visit and in the meantime the number is increased thanked to the fact that archaeological research continued and led to new discoveries that were almost immediately presented. From the very beginning, various surveys were conducted with the aim of determining the best ways of presentation, depending on the age and nationality of the visitors. As we were aware that Archaeological Park is some kind of living organism that has to evolve together with the visitors following their wishes and expectations lot of inquiries have been conducted – some of them within international project for special type of audience (e.g. senior visitors, tourists from cruise ships, etc.).
Various opinions, suggestions, inquiries, impressions obtained by the different questionnaires were analyzed. Surely, it depended on whether they were foreign tourists arriving by the Danube or if they were the most numerous audiences – pupils of primary and secondary schools. Special attention was committed to the school children cause after several years, the visit of Viminacium entered into the regular program of pupils’ excursions. That enabled us to do another important research of how the visit to Viminacium influences to the knowledge of Roman culture acquired in regular education with regard to the presentations of trained guides and inclusion of virtual reality during last year.
Welterbe als Chance – oder wieso die Römer auch in Krefeld waren
Das Museum Burg Linn in Krefeld wird in der Bevölkerung – nicht zuletzt auch durch den Namen begründet – nicht in erster Linie als römisches Museum, sondern zunächst als mittelalterliche Burg wahrgenommen. Dies ergab zusätzlich zu den subjektiven Ein-drücken eine repräsentative Umfrage der Universität Düsseldorf im Jahr 2017. Die 6500 Gräber der römischen und fränkischen Zeit, das Kastell und die histo-risch/archäologisch belegten Schlachtfelder existieren im Bewusstsein der Bevölke-rung ebenso wenig wie in dem von Lehrern. Damit verteilen sich die rund 50.000 Besu-cher des Museums zu 4/5 auf die Burg.
Durch die umfangreichen Grabungen auf 3,7 ha im letzten Jahr, die medial sehr auf-merksam begleitet wurden, ist es gelungen, zumindest auf den Umstand hinzuweisen, dass grundsätzlich schon Römer in der Gegend waren. Ziel des Museums ist es nun, diesen Schwung zu nutzen und durch die Bemühungen, dass der Niedergermanische Limes als UNESCO Welterbe eingetragen werden soll, sich als Standort für Limes und Römer in der Region zu etablieren und langfristig Schulklassen davon zu überzeugen, dass Römer nicht nur im 50km entfernten LVR- Archäologischen Park Xanten zu erfah-ren sind.
Dabei verfolgt das städtische Museum eine mehrgliedrige Strategie:
– Zum einen wird bereits seit 2015 in einer „Limesarbeitsgruppe“ eine regelmäßige Information zu dem UNESCO Antrag durch Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit durchgeführt. Mindestens einmal im Monat werden Limesthemen in den lokalen Medien, aber auch über die sozialen Netzwerke wie facebook verbreitet.
– Im Museum wird – je nach Grundsatzentscheidung der Stadt über Form und Um-fang – ein Ausstellungs- und Informationspunkt zum Limes eingerichtet.
– Auf dem Gelände des römischen Auxilliarkastells wird als Ergänzung der Muse-umsapp ein auf AR basierter Guide eingesetzt, der den Besuchern das unter dem Boden verborgene Bodendenkmal virtuell begreifbar macht. Zusätzlich soll dort in den nächsten Jahren ein archäologischer Landschaftspark entstehen.
Die sich in der täglichen Museumsarbeit stellenden Fragen sind nun: wie bekommt man in einem Industriegebiet, dem Krefelder Hafen, eine touristische Infrastruktur geschaf-fen, die so attraktiv ist, dass sie zum Verweilen mit Familien einläd, Kindergruppen dort aktiv werden können und Radtouristen ihr Etappenziel finden. In dem Vortrag sollen die aktuellen Lösungsansätze vor- und zu Diskussion gestellt werden.
The Mittelfranken-Limes-App: audience research and testing
The well preserved North Danubian Limes of Raetia in the district of Middle Franconia (Bavaria, Germany) has a total length of about 60 km and runs through a mainly rural area with only two small towns with 20.000 inhabitants each. The “Limes Mid Franconia App” was launched in 2014 after a three year development process and has rapidly become the prototype for mobile smartphone-applications on the transnational Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site. Other users of the app and platform include Historic Environment Scotland for the Antonine Wall the “Advanced Limes Application (ALApp)” which are both currently being developed. Promotion of the initial version of the app “Limes Mid Franconia” was not as effective as hoped. Market testing was also lacking in the initial development phase as is often the case for visitor research in Germany. Recognising that market testing was a lost opportunity in the initial development phase, in 2017 we developed a project to test user acceptance and user friendliness of the app in a collaboration project with the chair of museology of the university of Würzburg. The small sample does not allow us to draw wide-reaching conclusions but does demonstrate the usefulness of such research and gives us clear pointers with regard to visitor ‘likes’ and ‘don’t likes’ which will be used in the further development and improvement of Limes-Apps in the ALApp-Framework. For Bavaria the site of Eining-Abusina, where the Raetian Wall joins the Danube Limes, will serve as a regional testbed.
The Antonine Wall: digital resource development for new audiences
Patricia Weeks, Lyn Wilson, Al Rawlinson, Carsten Hermann, Erik Dobat
Established as part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site since 2008, the Antonine Wall has a plethora of traditional interpretive approaches laid out along its length. Museum displays mix original and replica artefacts alongside interpretation panels; sites feature interpretation boards, small descriptive signs and branded route markers. All are designed to appeal to traditional audience demographics and, in the main, do their job well.
But what of new and emerging audiences, those who are growing up in the new technological age, and for whom digital is king? Over the last 10 years, several phases of community consultation and visitor research on the Antonine Wall have demonstrated a growing desire for new forms of engagement with information about the cultural heritage. A continuing theme has been digital; the desire to see more information provided on and off site for use in a variety of non-prescriptive ways.
How can digital better present Heritage and, more importantly, World Heritage. Is it site interpretation or is it also a new form of marketing? Are all of our audiences actually going to physically visit or, as is the real likelihood, does digital offer us the means to engage even more widely, by reaching an international audience experiencing our site from the comfort of their own armchairs? And how are these audiences going to share their views with us? It is unlikely to be through the more traditional mediums of on-site paper based surveys. Instead, do we need to start looking more closely at our following on social media, at the ‘likes’ we get for posting particular forms of content? Do we need to focus on online surveys? What useful information can we glean from download details and comments on our app storefronts?
This paper will look at the journey to understand audience needs along the Antonine Wall that culminated in the development of the Antonine Wall app. It will summarise the history of both consultation / research and technological development that lead to the app, discuss approaches to defining content for new audiences, and share some experiences of users to date along with observations on the process. It will also introduce some ‘lessons learned’ from the project and set out how these are being applied to future digital engagement proposals.
Between archaeology and cliché – a study on Roman military reconstructions and reenactment
Boris Alexander Burandt
In addition to reconstructed buildings along the Limes, such as watchtowers or palisades, replicas of Roman military equipment and of everyday objects, are becoming more and more common in the mission of imparting knowledge on the Roman frontier to the general public. They are presented in exhibitions or by reenactment-groups and -associations in the whole of the Empire, from Scotland to Bulgaria. However, unlike the reconstructed architecture, so far there has been hardly any discourse on the quality and the historic accuracy of both the individual pieces and the presentations as a whole. This paper will try to provide a brief overview of the current landscape of this form of knowledge transfer and will hopefully be able to initiate a critical discussion between archaeological scholars and museum educational officers.
Another focus will be the question of how to help key institutions along the Roman Limes with making scholarly responsible decisions in purchasing these objects or in dealing with reenactment-groups while organizing museum festivals or theme days. Because what is the use of painstakingly studying archaeological sites and finds, if the visitors of many World Heritage sites only see common clichés of Roman antiquity repeated?
Turma! Hadrian’s Cavalry Charge in Carlisle
‘Turma! Hadrian’s Cavalry charge in Carlisle’ was the highlight of an events programme that accompanied the Hadrian’s Cavalry exhibition, a unique Wall-wide dispersed exhibition that ran from 8th April to 10th September 2017. The exhibition explored the strategic and symbolic role of Roman cavalry and daily life for the military units. The ambition of ‘Turma! Hadrian’s Cavalry charge in Carlisle’ was to bring together for the first time in perhaps 1,500 years a full troop (turma) of 30 Roman cavalrymen to perform drill and training exercises described in Hadrian’s adlocutio and the Ars Tactica. The objectives were twofold:
• to create a historically accurate impression of a turma on the parade ground, as an exercise in archaeological research and reconstruction
• to create a dramatic and engaging spectacle that would attract and entertain a wide range of audiences, not just academics and those interested in the Roman period
Whilst the emphasis was on historical accuracy, it was also essential to attract a wide range of existing and new audiences. A measure of compromise was inevitable, juggling these potentially competing objectives within a tight budget that needed to cover the costs of equipment, the riders, their horses and supporting infantry, performance infrastructure and personnel and project management. This paper explores these issues and the success of Turma! in both appealing to audiences and contributing to archaeological research. A short film about Turma! will be available to be shown at the Congress.
Cement for the limes. Interpretation Framework and Curatorship for the Dutch limes
An coalition consisting of the Dutch and German siteholders (North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, Gelderland, Utrecht and Zuid-Holland and the National Cultural Heritage Agency) works full swing to finalize the Lower German World Heritage nomination file for the Limes. Heritage organizations, great and small and local governments are particularly involved in this process developing in the Limeszone a public-oriented and attractive structure of heritage education, recreation and tourism around the limes theme. This has been quite successful: new visualisations, visitor centers, signposting for cycling and walking routes, information boards, artworks and a load of books and websites have seen the light.
Developing the attractive limes is done in the Netherlands in a typical Dutch way. Private initiatives take up the challenge financially stimulated by local, regional and national governments. This resulted in a network configuration in which dozens of small and large organizations, governments, companies and enthusiastic volunteers realize projects. This method is positive because the limes no longer only appeals to archaeologists but acquires a wider societal basis. The disadvantage of this non hierarchical organisation is the resulting diversity in visual imagery – close to cacophony -, that is usually accompanied by a somewhat superficial interpretation of the specific heritage values. As a result, the limes doesn’t present itself sufficiently as a coherent and complex archaeological and historical structure. One could say the public presentation of the limes misses in authenticity.
This critical observation, shared by many, led to the a series of inspirational and didactical guidelines. One of them was to draw up an interpretation framework based on the Interpretation Framework of Hadrian’s Wall. This is an instrument that helps to make the translation between archaeological / historical scientific research on the one hand and narratives that engage and challenge the public on the other. The Interpretation Framework starts out with an inventory per location of the archaeological objects and scientific notions. The central part of the Interpretation Framework is the narrative of the limes. It has the Statemement of Oustanding Universal Value as a starting point but broadens into an overarching storyline in seven themes in which the historical and social context of the limes and the after life are also discussed. The IF is intended to be used as an inspiration and guide. With the help of this instrument the Dutch limes, which forms a vast monument consisting of many locations and many stories, become richer and more varied to the public while deepening with detailed facts the connecting core; the limes as a large-scale military infrastructure.
In order to stimulate the use of the Interpretation Framework, a two-person limes curatorship has been set up in the follow-up. The Limes curators support local organizers and site managers with the interpretation framework. Special attention is given to positioning/branding a specific location or region (presentation unit) and taking care of the presentation and public approach, in line with the public’s expectation of the Limes location in question.
Tom Hazenberg, will on behalf of himself and Catherine Visser, present the Interpretation Framework for the Dutch Limes and will illustrate the first experiences with its implementation. Is it indeed possible to have the framework acting as cement for the limes in such a unruly and stubborn lot?
The Hadrian’s Cavalry Dispersed exhibition
Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site has 11 museums, managed by five organisations, interpreting the Roman army along its length. In 2017 these organisations came together to host an ambitious ‘dispersed exhibition’ exploring the often overlooked role of the Roman Cavalry. Hosted across 10 of the museums (1 was closed for refurbishment) the exhibition displayed iconic examples of the decorative equipment of the Roman cavalry from public and private collections across Europe. This was accompanied by extensive education and events programmes, including the recreation of a full cavalry Turma. The exhibition and events illustrated that the cavalry were very much a show element of an army that overall was very comfortable with providing spectacle, in an Empire that demanded it in so many aspects of its life.
The exhibition was created in part to demonstrate to funders and other stakeholders that the various bodies responsible for public interpretation of Hadrian’s Wall could work together.
This paper will explore the creation of this unique exhibition, and offer ‘dispersed exhibitions’ as a model for promoting the FRE World Heritage Site.
The Romans deep in barbaricum. Conception, current state and perspectives of the Roman military monuments presentation in the Czech Republic
Balázs Komoróczy, Pavla Růžičková, Marek Vlach
In Czech archaeology the Roman military monuments represent a very specific minority group, which research and presentation is determined by various conditions. Almost exclusively they are dislocated in the southern parts of Moravia, whereas in larger part they represent short-term evidences of the military operations – so-called temporary camps. Despite their presentation is not impossible it encounters several objective obstacles. The only site with more stable and complex presence of the Roman military architecture is Mušov-Burgstall. The uniqueness of this site rise requirements to the monument heritage protection is sometimes in contradiction with efforts to make it accessible to the public. Despite being somewhat exotic the topic of the Roman archaeological monuments is perceived also within the Czech society with considerable attention, whereas the narratives, which we would like to mediate through them necessarily have to reflect wider context than it is in case of many such monuments at the limes. The Institute of archaeology of the Czech academy of Sciences, Brno is determined not only to long-term scientific research of the site, but also deeply engaged in presentation activities during the last years. Within the presentation there will be presented steps, which has been already realized and also outlined the perspectives of development in the future.
Working with the local community on the Roman Limes. First steps in developing a sustainable site management framework
Romania is one of the countries that is currently preparing the documentation of inscribing the Limes found on its territory on the UNESCO Tentative List, in the context of the growing interest, at an international level, in expanding the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site. The Romanian Ministry of Culture has already established a National Limes Comission, whose funding is mainly oriented towards researching the yet not researched parts of the Dacian Limes, mapping its sites and drawing up all the necessary documentation for a successful bid. One of the greatest challenges consistes in matching the UNESCO requirements with the Romanian reality. The paper presents some examples on how to work with different segments of the community that currently lives on the Limes area, establishing a dialogue between research and community. One of our main goals is to make the voice of the community be heard, especially that it is one of the stakeholders that will be directly and greatly impacted on all levels of inhabitancy by the listing and existence of a new UNESCO site. Some of the already implemented projects as well as the new proposals presented in this paper show how the community could be involved in activities carried out within the actions of the National Limes Comission and its representatives in the territory, arguing the importance and necessity of such a cooperation already in this very early stage of preparation. The paper presents specific examples related to the small steps taken in rising awareness among those local communities that live on or very close to a Roman camp, in the eastern part of Transylvania.
Limes-App Hessen „Explore“ – moderner Weg der Denkmalvermittlung / Limes-App Hesse „Explore“ – a modern way of heritage transfer
Im Rahmen einer Forschungskooperation zwischen der Hochschule Rhein-Main und der hessenArchäologie im Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Hessen (beide Wiesbaden) entstand das Konzept einer App zur Vermittlung des hessischen Abschnitts des UNESCO-Welterbes Limes. Grundlage bildet die Anbindung an das Kulturlandschaftsinformationsportal KuLaDig (www.kuladig.de), über das Fachinformationen zu den einzelnen Bestandteilen des Denkmals zur Verfügung stehen. Der Anspruch der App geht aber weit über die fachliche Informationsvermittlung hinaus, da als Zielgruppe neben welterbe-affinen Personen auch andere Gruppen angesprochen werden sollen. Die App erschließt dem Nutzer auf verschiedenen Wegen das Denkmal. Touristische Informationen werden ebenso präsentiert wie die spielbasierte Wissensvermittlung am Denkmal. Das Konzept basiert nicht auf einer statischen, abgeschlossenen Wissens- und Vermittlungsbasis, sondern soll sich dynamisch weiterentwickeln.
Visitors in bowler hats and baseball caps – Aquincum then and now
The paper going to be held in the „Presenting the Roman Frontiers” session will be different from other topics because instead of archaeological findings or historical facts, the possibilities and methods of dissemination of knowledge of a highlighted museum alongside the Hungarian Limes Line will be in the focus. We will walk around the possibilities and the risks as well. I am going to explicate the differences and changes of the visitors’s social parameters according to the local citizens’ knowledgement about the Roman Heritage of Budapest. We are going to examine the new ways of marketing based on the results of the surveys made by the museum. A basically new type of marketing will be presented: how can we build up a brand on a famous historic character or a whole museum.