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, 21 October 2015

A Busy Heritage Open Week

Every October Half Term, Museums, Galleries and Heritage organisations in Bath and North East Somerset Council take part in Heritage Open Week, taking the opportunity to engage a wider audience with their sites. At The Roman Baths our Learning and Programmes team run family activities on site every weekday, this year’s it’s ‘Fabulous Feasts or Meagre Morsels’ looking at Roman food. They’re also running a family activity at Keynsham Library, ‘Marvellous Mosaics’, where you can investigate the fantastic mosaics from Durley Hill Roman Villa which are displayed there.

The Collections team will be busy as always, with not the usual two events, but three. This year Bath City Farm received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s ‘Sharing Heritage’ strand, which will enable them to produce a history trail around their site. As part of this, they are holding a number of open days, tied in to school holidays, centred around different periods of history. For Heritage Open Week  on Monday 26th October, 11-2, they are running ‘Medieval Madness’ which will give visitors a fantastic opportunity to learn all about the medieval period, try Medieval food and make a gargoyle. The Roman Baths Collections team will be there with Medieval objects from our collections to show off the splendour (and functionality).
Medieval cistern with an amazing stag decoration

St John’s Store, our offsite store on the Upper Bristol Road, houses our collection of oversize local history objects. These include everything from equipment from the Victorian spa of Bath, through historic furniture and even shop signs! Visitors young and old (and everywhere in between) can come along on Tuesday 27th October, 11-3, and learn all about how we care for these collections. Find out about the pests that might want to damage our objects, and how we protect our collections against these potential invaders…

A weighing chair from the Spa Treament Centre

At our Archaeology store at Pixash Lane, Keynsham on Thursday 29th October, 11-3, we will be running ‘Patterns at Pixash’, a chance to explore the amazing collections from Roman and Medieval Keynsham, as well as archaeological material from Combe Down Stone Mines. Keynsham Medieval Abbey, would have been a highly decorated building, from intricately carved stonework, to beautifully decorated tiles.  You can come and get a glimpse of the splendour of this Medieval religious establishment with our re-imagining of a Medieval tile floor. Kids (and grown-ups too) can take part in a number of activities based around these tiles, including making a two-tone tile.

One of the many floor tiles from Keynsham Abbey

If you want to know more about these and other events going on during Heritage Open Week, all the information can be found here at the following link, where you can also download a brochure: heritage open week

Verity, Collections Assistant, Roman Baths

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Beauty in Bath: Ravishing Romans and Gorgeous Georgians

When I had the idea to explore some of the beauty regimes that the citizens of Bath endured in the past, it made sense for me to focus on the two periods that the city is most known for: the Roman and the Georgian.

I had my Roargian”, the roaring Roman-Georgian displayed: a figure of a woman half Roman and half Georgian. The left half, the Roman side, included gold jewellery, braided hair, and clothing including her stola and tunic. The right half, the Georgian side, included a beauty patch, a sack back dress, and lace gloves. Overall, the Roargian demonstrated that the Romans and Georgians had completely different clothing tastes!

I divided my table, like my Roargian, in to two halves; one side Roman and one side Georgian, with a beauty ingredient station for each describing makeup and skincare concoctions; this made me realise the differences, between the two periods and our own. The Romans used urine as mouthwash, whilst the Georgians used lead-based face powders which caused poisoning, neither of these ingredients are things we would use today!

As well as the ingredients, I also had related objects on my table. All my Roman objects were bronze, a popular metal of the time, and included bracelets, brooches, rings and tweezers, just like we use today. The Georgian objects included ceramic and metal wig curlers; wigs were the height of fashion in this period, so these would have been a must for the social climber of the time (or their servants).

Romans and Georgians desired to uphold social expectations of beauty and had a certain idealised look they were trying to achieve. The Romans were more holistic in their approach whereas the Georgian approach was based on achieving a certain aesthetic and they did not care about a daily bath!  Yet, there were similarities between the two in the beauty ingredients used: rosewater, lavender, urine, lead, crushed bugs, animal poo, and vinegar. Some of these ingredients are still used todayhopefully animal poo isnt one of them!

What I enjoyed the most about this project was how it ignited a dialogue about our beauty practices today. Has our culture really changed that much in its quest to look beautiful? Although I perceive the majority of the beauty rituals of the Romans and Georgians as odd, is our culture just as odd, if not odder? We live in a world where we can easily get an eyebrow transplant to mimic the eyebrows of Cara Delevingne, lip fillers to copy the lips of Kylie Jenner, and facial reconstruction surgery so we can have Angeline Jolies cheekbones. This leaves me to wonder if maybe we are the weird ones.

Codie Kish
Learning and Programmes Placement

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Reflections on my 2015 placement

Late November of last year I sent an email to the Roman Baths collections team, inquiring about student placements. Eight months later here I am writing my reflection, and I can’t believe how fast time has passed. Though my placement has been a relatively short five weeks, so much has happened and all of it is experience I can honestly say I will never forget.

The first week I began helping process coins from the Beau Street Hoard and though I’m sure coins are burned into the backs of everyone’s eyes, I was new to the project and quite keen. You can believe my excitement then when I was given the opportunity to design a display that would be exhibited at the nearby Radstock Museum for a month. I have always been into the arts, so putting this exhibit together was like combining my two loves: design and ancient history. Research into my display was also quite the eye-opener, and through hands-on experience with the coins I learned a lot. I also learned some important curatorial skills in regards to the public. I had to consider what would catch people’s interest and show them that this collection was not just ‘a bunch of old coins’ but something fascinating and historically important. I doing this I improved my skills in writing labels that would be accessible to everyone, keeping in mind that many visitors’ first language would not be English.

I was later able to apply these newly-acquired skills to my next and last project: my Tuesday Timetable. Tuesday Timetables, the fancy alliterated name for the Bath’s weekly handling tables, each have their own theme depending on the person running them. For my table I chose ‘Tools and Weapons’ since I feel this category would really catch the attention of children and adults alike. My hypothesis proved correct as during the table families crowded around and examined all the different artefacts (especially the hand-axe – with its size and weight it was a really fun object to pick up).

In all, my time at the Baths is something I won’t forget. Though this sounds cliché there is no other way to say it without sounding pretentious. This was my first opportunity to work in a museum and gain first hand experience and I will always look back on these few five weeks for the rest of my career. Who knows where I will be in five years?