Change is afoot at the Museum of London, which today (22 June 2012) reopened its Roman gallery following the first major update to this section since it opened in 1994.
‘Our Londinium 2012′ draws parallels between life in Roman London and the city today. Funded by the Arts Council England, the redevelopment is part of the Cultural Olympiad Programme ‘Stories of the World’ and includes a wealth of new installations including audio-visual displays and interactive touchscreen maps.
Modern objects — mostly drawn from the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (see CA 267 for more on this record-breaking collection) — have been placed in two thirds of the gallery’s display cases beside Roman artefacts.
A bust of Hadrian recovered from the Thames foreshore and currently on loan from the British Museum is juxtaposed with ‘V for Vendetta’ masks worn during the recent anti-cuts protests to prompt discussion about power and authority and how these are challenged.
Some artefacts demonstrate common concerns being responded to in rather different ways, with a CCTV camera displayed alongside the Medusa box-clasp found at Syon Park (see CA 260) — both designed to ward off would-be thieves. Others show that little has changed, with Hindu figurines recently recovered from the Thames suggesting that the practice of making votive offerings is far from dead.
The project was co-curated with the museum’s youth panel, ‘Junction’, comprising 50 individuals aged 16-21, and has involved almost 150 young people overall, including young offenders, adolescent mental health groups, pupil referral units and young unemployed, through community outreach projects.
‘We are trying to get people more involved in and more excited about London’s history,’ said Lucie Fitton, MoL Inclusion Manager. ‘We have never had installation-based displays like this before, but it should be a good way of bringing new ideas and new voices to the museum.’
This article can be found in the latest issue of Current Archaeology (#269), on sale July 6.
More information on Our Londinium