My name is Dan, and one of the things I enjoy about working in the Visitor Services team here at the Manchester Museum is the opportunity to talk to people about the Museum’s exhibitions and collections. For my first blog post, I thought I would write about the Roman tours I gave recently as part of the Museum’s ‘Roman week’ in September.
I often give tours at the Museum; we have short Taster Tours (every Wednesday and Thursday at 1 pm), and lately I have been involved in creating a new programme of themed tours, with a different theme each week (every Thursday at 3 pm). I am particularly interested in the Romans, having studied Roman history and archaeology at university, so when Anna Bunney, Curator of Public Programmes asked me if I would deliver some Roman tours during Roman week, I jumped at the chance.
The Museum has a great collection of Roman objects, including many interesting finds from Manchester itself (Manchester was once a Roman fort). In the Manchester gallery there is a Roman altar, found in Manchester in 2008, and an intriguing Latin inscription (which could be early evidence of Christianity in Britain) can be seen in one of the Ancient Worlds galleries. There are also Roman coins on display in the Money gallery, and the Living Worlds gallery has a ‘Disasters’ case featuring plaster casts of a woman and a dog; both killed by the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius in 79 AD, which buried Pompeii and Herculaneum.
After the tour, there was an opportunity to handle some Roman objects. This was a real highlight for the visitors, judging by their feedback. I conducted the handling session in the Museum’s seminar room, having arranged this with Sally Thelwell who runs the Collections Study Centre. Bryan Sitch, Curator of Archaeology and Conservator Irit Narkiss kindly prepared a selection of Roman items for me to use, including an oil lamp and objects found during excavations in Manchester, such as pieces of a Roman bowl called a mortarium. Keith Sugden, Curator of Numismatics has given me some Roman coins for visitors to handle, so I will look forward to my next Roman tour and handling session, scheduled for 2014.