Welcome to the Roman Baths Blog!

This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

How the Beau Street Hoard Project is Progressing

The Beau Street Hoard project is moving on apace! The project team is busy developing the application for the Heritage Lottery Fund. This involves many different elements, from liaising with external partners and public consultation to working out how to move a rather inconveniently placed gas pipe which runs through the area where we propose to install the new lift for a fully-accessible gallery.

A Beau Street Hoard Project meeting

There are many aspects to consider for the curators, designers and the facilities team (who look after the building here at The Roman Baths), as they plan how to incorporate the Beau Street Hoard display into the Aquae Sulis gallery: environmental control, lighting, display mounts and how the display will be interpreted - for example - through text panels, graphic illustrations and multi-media. Visitor flow must also be factored in – we want our visitors to be comfortable, so we need to ask how they will move around and access the new display. This process involves re-positioning existing exhibits, as well as up-dating signage. It is a complex business, but well worth it to have the Beau Street Hoard on show as part of our permanent collection.

We have been working closely with Event Communications, an exhibition design company, who have designed the redisplay of the museum over the past six years. Daniel Warren is the senior designer working with us to display the Beau Street Hoard to its best advantage within the gallery. Daniel describes one idea they have: ‘We imagined an array of coins rising up out of the ground in an intriguing pattern. Closer inspection will reveal they are arranged in very loose groupings through which we can explore aspects of Roman money. Mounts will be minimal and the coins will appear to float within the case. In this way, the overall feel of the display will be light, airy and mobile, rather than a heavy clump of coins in an uninspiring pile.’

Currently, we are consulting members of the public, both in the museum and off site, as to what sort of display they’d like to see, so we can incorporate their ideas into the final design.

The story of the Beau Street Hoard’s discovery in Bath will also be told within the display. Interpretation will include text-based panels and an audio visual exhibit demonstrating the fascinating conservation process undertaken by our partners in the British Museum Conservation Department.

Part of the Beau Street hoard display in the British Museum

Watch this space for updates and if you haven’t seen the hoard, come and see our free, temporary display in the Sun Lounge of the Roman Baths or, if you’re closer to London, pop in to see the display in the Citi Money Gallery at the British Museum.

Saira Holmes – Project Officer

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Roman Baths' Museums at Night 2013

The Roman Baths' Museums at Night 2013

Once again the Roman Baths are taking part in the Culture24 event of Museums at Night. There will be many (at least 500) museums involved this year over a three day period; from 16 May 2013 to 18 May 2013.

This year the Roman Baths will stay open late, 6pm-9pm (last entry 8pm) to let visitors have a wonderful night enjoying live music around the site while viewing the Great Bath in torch light. There will even be a Drop-in event to create your very own musical instrument!

This blog is going to give you a bit of background information of the music and instruments you will hear throughout the museum.

Period: Ancient Roman
Musician: Michael Levy
Instrument: Lyre

To learn more about Michael or Lyre Music please visit: http://www.ancientlyre.com/

The Lyre

The instrument that has been known as a lyre was mentioned in a biblical context but for this introduction to the instrument we will start like any good story starts, in Greece and the Middle East. There are inscriptions, pots, and paintings that date back thousands of years indicating this musical instruments use within the culture.

*Fact- did you know that when archaeologist found Minerva’s head, which is on display in the museum, they originally thought it was the head of Apollo?

The lyre is not often seen in orchestras or bands these days. However they did pave the way for today’s modern string instruments. The closest instrument to a lyre you will find right now is the Harp. The size is vast between the two instruments but if you look at them, you will notice that the shapes are similar.

Period: Medieval
Musicians: Waytes and Measures
Instruments: Tabor, Percussion, Fiddle, Hurdy Gurdy, etc.

To learn more about Waytes and Measures visit: http://waytesandmeasures.org.uk/

With the introduction of medieval instruments and music we start to head towards sounds that could be mistaken for modern. This is the time of the traveling troubadour that created love poems for maidens and triumph songs for warriors.

This was also the time that musical notation started to form, music theories were produced, and modern musical practice was born.

Period: Modern
Musicians: Lambeth Swing
Instrument/genre: Jazz

To learn more about Lambeth Swing or here more songs visit: http://www.jameslambeth.co.uk/

Jazz has its roots in America during the 20th century. Jazz itself is hard to define; it has taken many different shapes and can very even between State lines in the US. There is a key to Jazz; it has to move you, it has to have a bit of soul. But it is not what you would call soul music, that’s a completely different genre.

While Jazz is still very much around today, you may recall a popular era in which Jazz was predominate; the 1920s. To have a Jazz group you need at least three instruments (but you are not limited to three) which should be: a brass (usually trumpet), a double bass, and a percussionist.

If you are looking for something to do Friday night, 17 May, visit the Fashion Museum where you can get a tour of the museum then either – Have a Champagne tasting (£22 per ticket) or Learn to dance like Jane Austin did (£5 per ticket). Remember to book through – www.bathboxoffice.org.uk/

If you are out of the area those days check on the Culture24’s website www.museumsatnight.org.uk to find a museum near you to enjoy some fun during the night.


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Who’s who in the Roman Baths Bloggers?

You would be forgiven in believing that the RBM collections team was huge group of people, because of the number of different names that appear as bloggers.

This is not the case! Of paid staff, there are only 2 of us. But although our office is small, we welcome 10-13 enthusiastic volunteers each week and around 7 placements from different levels of education each year.

The age range is from 17-retired. Some are here to improve their CV (and those that do, have gone onto great jobs in museums, teaching and even archaeological units), others do it just for fun.

Our summer trip 2012 : once a year we have a study trip to a site or museum where we try not to enjoy ourselves too much

And as Roman Baths and Bath are well known abroad, we get a great mix of different nationalities: so far only the continents Africa, South America and Antarctic (and as our office tends to be quite hot, inhabitants of the last continent would not be accepted) have not been represented. Students studying archaeology, museum studies or heritage management come to us and, despite the perilous jobs market nearly all have a job in their chosen sector.
Nicola, who came all the way from Sydney to do her placement with us

Volunteers work on many different tasks: cataloguing archaeological material, or historical photographs, helping with new displays, research and events, for Science Week, and summer Tuesday Times Tables, our team prepare handling tables to share their favourite objects and subjects with visitors.

Penny: her nose in a book improving her already extenisve knowledge of Bath history

Tony on  placement with us from UWE
 All these keen, lovely people are encouraged/persuaded/even bribed with cake to write a blog and get their name “out there” and ensure a little part of them lives on in Bath, even when they’ve gone to paid employment or back home.

Yes, we do have enough chairs...but sometimes the floor is better...

If you are interested in joining us, we are usually booked up with volunteers and placements 6 months ahead so get in touch as early as possible! As you will have seen from previous blogs are collections and the work we do with them are varied, so if you have a particular skill or enthusiasm for a type of object: you never know it might just be the one we need help with!

Susan, Collections Manager

Friday, 3 May 2013

History in the Making: Weston’s Heritage Day

One year ago, Michael McCarthy put in a call to the Roman Baths with the dream of having a Heritage Day for the Parish of Weston.

A year later, on 20th April 2013, Weston celebrated the first Heritage Day with the help from local historians, the Moravian Church Hall, Students working on a project from the Bath Spa University, and members of Bath and North East Somerset Council's Heritage Services Team from the Roman Baths and Record Office, and the Libraries Team.

A happy Susan and Jenn staffing the Roman Baths display at Weston

Items brought from the Roman Baths collection included fragments of Roman and Medieval pottery including jugs, cooking pots, and Roman roof tiles found during excavation work at Purlewent Drive in the early 1900s. Additional archaeological finds include coins from the Roman and the Georgian eras, and the famous Iron Age Spoons.

Replicas of the Iron Age spoons from Weston

The spoons are thought to have been used as a divining tool the Celts used to tell the future. The theory is that by placing the spoons one on top of the other, the diviner would then blow a liquid (blood, wine, or water) into the whole of the top spoon and when they were separated, the bottom spoon would hold a pattern that could be used to predict a future event.

Minister of the Moravian Church, Beth Torkington, is intrigued by the Spoons

Additional items that the Roman Baths displayed were historic photographs of the hospital when it opened in the 1930s, a property tax slip, and post cards of the area. The most intriguing postcard holds the image of the Brewery which at the beginning of the Heritage day could not be located in the current plans of Weston. But that’s what is amazing about a community coming together with information that not everyone has access too. It was after a visit to the table by the Tithe Maps & Weston Estates historian Tony Bray with his map from the 1800s that the Brewery was discovered to be located on Trafalgar Road.

Some of the pottery found in Weston

Every table was a popular stop, including the other members of the Heritage Services team from the Record Office at the Guildhall. Residents were interesting in picking the brains of Colin and Lucy.

Colin from the Record Office shares his knowledge

This event was not just about what items could be brought to Weston, but about how the community came together to explore their history and share their knowledge with others and preserve it for the future. The Bath Chronicle, who wrote up a nice article from the day, quoted Michael McCarthy ‘...this day will inspire a younger generation to continue to tap into the rich seam of local history that still remains to be uncovered.’

Lucy explains the Parish Register indexes

Even the MP of Bath, Don Foster, stopped by to open the event, stopping at every table to chat with the presenters, and spending time with the locals by having some tea and cake.

Michael McCarthy welcoming MP Don Foster

The final total count of visitors to the Heritage Day was estimated to be around 200 members of the community. Michael is hopeful to have another Heritage Day next year to explore other historic finds of the area and possible, if we are lucky, new finds as well.