“There’s some truly fascinating stuff in here,” said the man standing next to me.
I couldn’t have put it more simply and accurately myself. Admittedly, ‘stuff’ isn’t the most descriptive word but the sentiments were spot on.
And it wasn’t just the artefacts on display that captured my attention; the story of the growth of the Roman Empire and how much influence the Romans had was truly fascinating.
After travelling along parts of Hadrian’s Wall before Christmas, visiting family in South Shields and Dumfries, it seemed a pertinent time to visit the British Museum’s ‘Roman Empire: Power and People’ exhibition on display at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.
Mooching around the intimate exhibition, I drifted off imagining what it would have been like to live during the Roman times. The exhibition’s interactive map was, for me, one of the highlights of the visit; it put into perspective just how vast the geographical spread of the empire was, but also how vital resources were from around the Empire. Out of Italy went olive oil, grain and wine. In came lead and tin from England that was used to make pewter, which in turn made everyday items, and pots from North Africa used for cooking and transporting the olive oil. You then just had to turn around to see a cabinet holding an array of artefacts to really bring it to life.
Other artefacts that you couldn’t miss were the large marble heads of Emperors; made from the marble quarried from across Europe they had seized control of? The intricate detailing took my breath away, in particular a marble coffin on show as you neared the exit of the exhibition, and also a Romano-British stone coffin that was uncovered at an excavation in Mangotsfield. A nice touch to link it with Bristol.
“Being Roman was a state of mind that could be embraced or resisted…“
A quote from one of the displays that really highlighted for me the autocratic dominance of the Emperors and the fate of the Barbarians.
In my new-found inquisitive state I began to explore the rest of the museum. I whiled away another couple of hours studying the changes in the city through the collection of old maps, I got drawn into the minerals section like a bug to bright lights and saw some incredible geological formations from places around the West. Is it just me or does the museum leave you with the feeling you want to go back and find out more?
I could have no doubt spent many more hours in the museum but Park Street was calling. Literally. A friend was having a drink in The Hill, just off Park Street, and it would be rude not go and say hi! We rounded the evening off at Nando’s before catching the bus. Destination: home.
The National Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at MShed will have to wait for another weekend, but that’s open until 23 February.
This post first appeared on Bristol #PROSPECTUS, a project that has now ended.