The thank you post

Now the Nemi exhibition is over now and Fundilia is safely back in her box we’d like to thank you all for supporting us in our digital engagement with this fantastic exhibition. Thanks to the Nottingham Castle Museum and University of Nottingham for letting us work with them, in particular Ann Inscker and Katharina Lorenz. Thanks especially to our guest bloggers for your fantastic research and ideas. Most of all to those who followed our posts and tweets, we hope you enjoyed them and – although this blog has now come to a close – that we’ve got you excited enough about Nemi and her history for you to continue those conversations begun here. Look out for the odd special post in the future too!

We hope you made it to the exhibition but for those who didn’t here are a few of our favourite exhibits.


©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Photo: author’s own

Approaching the temple of Diana via the ‘Appian Way


©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Photo: author’s own

Model of an Etruscan temple found at Nemi, a small version of the actual ancient temple?


©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Photo: author’s own

A selection of the fascinating small votives dedicated by ordinary Romans at the sanctuary


©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Photo: author’s own

A votive tree! Hundreds of wishes and thanks hung by visitors.


©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Photo: author’s own

The fabulous matron, Fundilia Rufa, herself with two of our team, Cara and Rebecca.

©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Photo: author’s own

©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Photo: author’s own

Thank you!


3D-Scanning Fundilia: Research on the statuary finds from the Sanctuary of Diana at Nemi

Dr. Katharina Lorenz, director of Digital Humanities Centre at University of Nottingham, has been exploring how to connect with the ancient finds at Nemi through twenty-first century digital means. Following a successful talk at Nottingham Castle Museum as part of the Treasures of Nemi exhibition programme she shares with us her experience of 3D scanning the star exhibit of the show, the herm of Fundilia Rufa.

Over the last two years, I have been working on a project concerned with the 3D scanning of the two portrait statues of Fundilia, the herm statue in the Nottingham Castle Museum and Galleries (NCMG) and the full-body statue in the collection of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen. This research is thoroughly multi-disciplinary: it involves archaeologists (myself, Ann Inscker at NCMG, and Jane Fejfer and Mette Moltesen in Copenhagen), Human-Computer-Interaction specialists (Damian Schofield and Matthew Andrews at SUNY Oswego) and a forensic anthropologist (Stephanie Davy-Jow at the University of South Florida), along with Nottingham University Classics students, who helped scanning the herm statue in 2011.


Scanning campaign with Nottingham students, Nottingham Castle Museum and Galleries, January 2011. Photo: Katharina Lorenz

Enhanced artefact documentation
So why 3D-scan Roman portrait statues? There are two reasons why I started this project. The first, basic reason is that 3D scanning technology facilitates enhanced artefact documentation, a major concern in archaeological heritage management: with 3D-scanning technology, an object – in our case, a portrait statue – can be reproduced digitally in a non-invasive, quick and cost-effective way. In a case such as that of the two Fundilias this also means that distributed objects can be reunited virtually with each other, and within their original context, in order to conduct different types of contextual analysis (how did the statues appear in the room in which they were put up? When/how would visitors to the sanctuary see them?), without the need to travel from museum to museum or to the site.

In addition, this type of enhanced artefact documentation can also help to bring out object details not visible to the human eye – the 3D scanner with its high visual resolution works as if a microscope. So, for example when 3D-scanning the herm statue in Nottingham, the student team observed a sequence of indentations on the mantle of the statue, so far never recorded, which we were later able to interpret as a decorative pattern, and an indication that the statue had originally been painted (this is now confirmed after examination by the Copenhagen Tracking Colour project).

Scanning_Fundilia_20110516_webuse_2 (1)

Scanning campaign at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, May 2011. Photo: Katharina Lorenz

“Big Data” and formal analysis
The second reason for choosing 3D-scanning technology as a means of studying Roman portrait statues is that the scanning produces large data sets – sets of quantitative measurements of the statues – which can support different types of advanced statistical analysis. This part of the project is still ongoing.
What interests me here is to what extent the measurements that the 3D scans produce – measurements capturing the statues in their spherical volume with an exactitude that could not be produced by the more traditional types of manual measurement – can help us to understand the formal and stylistic relationship of the statues better. The central questions for a classical archaeologist like me here are: how similar are the two portrait representations (we know they both show Fundilia because the inscriptions on the statues tell us)? Can we tell whether one was made before the other, ie. one statue served as the model for the other statue (this would have implications for the dating of the statues, and – possibly – also for their respective importance)?
Key to answering these questions is close scrutiny of the portraits of each statue, their faces. Traditionally, classical archaeologists rely on visual autopsy for this type of enquiry: they study the portraits very closely and compare all the individual features in order to elicit an interpretation. But this type of visual autopsy comes with an error margin caused by subjectivity: different interpreters might quite literally look at things differently.


The model of the Copenhagen Fundilia during 3D-scanning. Photo@ Katharina Lorenz

The field of Roman portraiture studies has for the past century been concerned with reducing this element of subjectivity – by means of developing robust protocols that make the analyses and interpretations of individual interpreters transparent, comparable, and falsifiable. So scholars have used comparable ways of photographic documentation, and similar patterns of description. What interested me when starting the project (and still does!) is to what extent the quantification of a portrait (as a type of objective description, because not dependent on the eye sight of a single individual) could offer a new, stronger basis for the formal and stylistic analysis of Roman portraiture.
Comparing facial measurement, even if gained by an “objective” machine such as a 3D-scanner, is not easy – for one, there is the question which measurements to compare. And a decision here, as any other type of interpretation, automatically introduces an element of subjectivity into the analysis. This is where my colleagues from Human Computer Interaction and Forensic Anthropology come in: they developed a standardised system of facial landmarks, which are particularly relevant for facial identification and against which any face can be mapped. And that is what we also did with the two Fundilias, based on the data collected from 3D-scanning them.

Once the faces had been landmarked, the co-ordinates of the facial landmarks were imported into a statistical software package (MiniTab 16, © Minitab 2012) and my colleagues started to examine the statistical distance and spatial mean information relative to the three-dimensional coordinates of the anthropometric landmarks.

The outcome of this statistical analysis showed that the density of coordinates differs between the Nottingham and the Copenhagen portrait of Fundilia – or, in simple words: if the portrait heads were to be super-imposed, there would be significant discrepancy. More specifically, the variations suggest that the areas of the eyes of the two statues are highly similar in terms of relevant proportion and the areas of broader facial landmarks such as the ear or jaw have greater differentials. The tighter and more precise areas that are centred in the middle of the face tend to correlate positively whereas the broader areas have a more negative correlation. This result confirms the hypothesis that Roman artists, when copying portraits, concentrated primarily on the central axis of the face along the nose, and were less concerned about the other areas of the face.
We are currently working on the next stage of the project, with further analysis of the mathematical data and visual feature comparisons between the statues – more results to follow soon!

The results of the first stage of the project can be found here.
Katharina Lorenz

Discovering Diana: the nineteenth-century unearthing of the treasures of Nemi

Fortune and glory? The whip-cracking adventurers and maverick explorers of popular fiction undoubtedly owe their origins, at least in part, to the cultural construct of the Victorian English gentleman.

It was a commonly accepted convention, or even rite of passage, for such educated Englishmen to seek out and in some way, through discovery, documentation or even possession, take ownership of some antiquarian concept. It was as if one could achieve a measure of renown by association: that through possession of what was deemed to be cultural, the possessor would in turn become cultured. The accuracy of this notion is clearly debatable, but its manifestation is undeniable: the nineteenth century bore witness to an unprecedented increase of interest, amongst the middle and upper classes, in all things that could be deemed enlightening and intellectual. Classical History, and Archaeology in particular, was no exception and led directly to the rise of the amateur gentleman archaeologist.

John Savile Lumley, subsequently Lord John Savile, was born on 6 January 1818, the second son of the 8th Earl of Scarborough. Details of his early life are scarce but from the age of 24, in a diplomatic career spanning an impressive 47 years, he represented British interests throughout the world, serving in countries including Germany, Russia, USA, Spain, Constantinople and Belgium. His final appointment before retiring was that of British Minister at Rome in August 1883: a position he was to hold for the next four years. It was during this tenure that, indulging a passion for archaeology, Savile began excavations on the northern shore of Lake Nemi, on land belonging to Prince Orsini. In particular, he hoped to discover the location of the lost Temple of Diana, which he referred to in a letter to George Wallis, then curator of Nottingham Castle Museum, as the ‘Arteminium of Strabo’: a reference to the Greek geographer Strabo’s early description of the temple in the first century AD.

Savile began his excavations on 30 March 1885 at Giardino del Lago at the foot of the hill on which the town of Nemi stands, and was not to be disappointed. Within a short time, portions of a surprisingly large wall had been revealed, previously buried beneath thick layers of vegetation. The wall seemed to support the banks above it whilst simultaneously forming the north and east sides of what was revealed to be a vast terrace measuring in excess of 44,000 square metres. Upon beginning to dig, the very first trench that Savile opened contained a multitude of terracotta models and statuettes.

Votive offerings, 1885, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums

Votive offerings, 1885, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums

Due to the surprisingly large quantity of finds, he surmised that he had located a pit where excess votives would have been regularly removed to and buried to make way for new ones.  The presence of numerous statuettes of Diana and her nymphs amongst the models supported the likelihood that this was indeed the lost temple of Diana.

Plan of site from commemorative catalogue, 1893

Plan of site from commemorative catalogue, 1893

This was not the only significant indication that Savile had found what he sought: the finds from a second trench included inscribed marble fragments, one of which made direct reference to Diana, as well as coins, dice, hairpins and writing equipment.

Inscriptions, 1885, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums

Inscriptions, 1885, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums

Furthermore, a rectangular temple basement, unearthed some distance from this trench, contained a number of bronze items including a ladle inscribed with Diana’s name, numerous representations of her nymphs and votaries, and over a thousand coins.

East front of temple basement, 1885, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums

East front of temple basement, 1885, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums

As work continued, a series of small chapels or shrines were revealed beneath the north wall, one of which showed evidence of being put to use as a sculptor’s studio. Others were found to contain terracotta fragments, the head of a horse, an impressive sculpture of Tiberius and a remarkably well-preserved statue of a Roman matron entitled ‘Fundilia’. One of the most notable finds, towards the end of excavation, was a circular sacrificial altar with channels to drain away blood, surmised to be the temple’s external altar to Diana. And, if these finds alone were not convincing enough, the structure and physical features of the site’s location matched Strabo’s original description so precisely that it was considered impossible for Savile’s discovery to be anything other than the lost temple.

Due to the nature of his initial agreement with the Italian authorities, Savile was only permitted to keep half of his finds, with the rest remaining the property of the landowner, Prince Orsini. More interested in financial than intellectual gain, Orsini sold much of his share to art collectors in Rome, to the apparent indignation of Savile. Indeed, it seems highly likely that Orsini’s attitude contributed directly to Savile’s decision not to accept a new contract to continue working at the site for another year. Consequently, Orsini insisted that Savile’s excavations be refilled – although not before he had profited from allowing a number of others to take advantage of them. By the time of the first display of Savile’s finds in 1891, it was noted, the grass had regrown over Savile’s excavations and many academics were thankful for the photos of the site that he had taken.

Savile’s treatment of his share of the artefacts was in stark contrast to Orsini’s, and clearly reflected his regard for intellectual rather than commercial gain. The announcement of his decision to donate his share of the finds to the newly established Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, close to his ancestral home of Rufford Abbey, was enthusiastically reported in the press. The local Nottinghamshire Guardian described his endeavours in detail and referred to his ‘generous gift’ as being ‘universally received with feeling of the greatest satisfaction’. The new collection, comprising 1,586 artefacts and a series of photographs of the dig, was highly regarded and provoked international interest from the beginning: a limited edition, commemorative catalogue of the original exhibition lists, amongst its many subscribers, patrons and institutions from USA, France, Germany and beyond.

Following the donation, Savile himself remained somewhat of a local celebrity: he officially retired in 1888, after being raised as a peer the previous year, and sat as Baron Savile of Rufford in Nottinghamshire, having inherited the lands and mansion of Rufford Abbey following the death of his brother, Augustus.   He died at Rufford Abbey on 28 November 1896 and was buried at Bilsthorpe in Nottinghamshire.

Pete Bounous

University of Birmingham

Further reading:

Nottinghamshire Guardian Friday 17th September 1886 p.7

The Morning Post Monday 30th November 1896 p.5

Nottingham Castle Museum, Illustrated Catalogue of the Classical Antiquities from the Site of the Temple of Diana, Nemi, Italy (Nottingham, 1893)

Levine, P., The Amateur and the Professional: Antiquarians, Historians and Archaeologists in Victorian England 1838-1886 (Cambridge, 2002)

Fog, Drizzle and Woolly Socks: Living at the Edge of the World

Today Britain is a major economic world player with a proud history. It is easy to forget that in the eyes of the ancient Romans she was a marginal place at the edge of the world, among the last parts of the Roman world to be conquered and the first province abandoned as the empire crumbled.

The majority of the objects on display at the Treasures of Nemi exhibition at Nottingham Castle Museum date from period long before Britain was ever on the Romans’ radar. They may have heard of its existence, but, over the channel from the European mainland, it must have seemed a mysterious, exotic and frightening place: a land of dense forest and torrential rain, inhabited by a ferocious race of blue-painted warriors.

Portrait head from Nemi identified as Julius Caesar, Nottingham Castle Museums

Portrait head from Nemi identified as Julius Caesar, Nottingham Castle Museums

The first direct contact between the Romans and Britons came in the summer of 55 BC, when the Roman general Julius Caesar landed on the Kentish shore. He had been campaigning in Gaul (modern France) when he decided to tackle the ultimate challenge of this remote island. But the expedition could easily be regarded as a military failure: no territory was conquered, and no troops left behind to hold it. After a few inconclusive battles with the locals (who had a habit of riding terrifying chariots), and with his supply lines stretched and ships battered by horrific British gales, Caesar admitted defeat, and retreated back to Gaul. A year later he tried again, but again he failed. Nevertheless, the Senate back in Rome proclaimed a 20-day holiday in honour for his ‘success’ at tackling this inhospitable place. Thus began the myth of Britain, the remote island, a place at the edge of the world where Roman leaders could achieve political prestige.

The first Roman emperor, Augustus, is said to have planned his own invasion of Britain, but it remained an unfulfilled dream. Strabo, a Greek geographer who wrote late in Augustus’ reign, described the distant land of Britain. He said it was overgrown with forests and perpetually covered by drizzle and fog so thick that there was only three hours of sunlight a day (an accurate description of British weather?). He claimed that British people stood almost a foot taller than the average Roman, and made bad slaves due to their barbarous natures (though they were allegedly not as bad as the inhabitants of neighbouring Ireland, who had a penchant for cannibalism and incest). Strabo concluded that the rainy island of Britain was not even worthy the cost and effort of invading.

The Emperor Claudius subdues the personification of Britain, from Aprodisias, Turkey. Photo David J. Lull, CC

The Emperor Claudius subdues the personification of Britain, from Aprodisias, Turkey.
Photo David J. Lull, CC

 Eventually the emperor Claudius undertook the conquest of Britain in AD 43, almost a hundred years after Julius Caesar had set foot on its shores. It was a war of prestige rather than necessity: Claudius, an obscure member of the Roman imperial family, needed a glamorous military victory to secure his throne against opposition back home in Rome. Taming the dangerous and foggy island of Britain was the ultimate achievement. Claudius’ victory was advertised as far away as Aphrodisias, in modern Turkey on the opposite side of the Roman world, where a sculptural relief portrayed the emperor subduing a wild and Amazon-like personification of Britain (above).

Victorian sculpture of Boadicea, Embankment, London. CC.

Victorian sculpture of Boadicea, Embankment, London. CC.

In the years following Claudius’ invasion, Roman control was consolidated and distinctive Romano-British culture developed. The tribes of some regions saw the advantages of siding with the Romans; other areas (such as Wales) took decades to subdue. Though Britain was now officially part of the Roman Empire it remained a problematic place. In AD 60-1 the infamous rebellion of Boadicea, the queen of the Iceni tribe, resulted in the razing of the Roman cities of Camuldonum (modern Colchester) and Verulanium (modern St. Albans), and almost London itself, with an estimated 80,000 casualties. Nero, the Roman emperor at the time, even considered abandoning the island altogether.

A woman’s handwriting. Writing tablet from Vindolanda. CC.

A woman’s handwriting. Writing tablet from Vindolanda. CC.

The emperor Hadrian visited this remote part of his empire in around 120 AD and ordered the construction of a defensive wall – Hadrian’s Wall – to divide Roman Britain from the untameable regions in modern Scotland. The writing tablets which survive from Vindolanda, one of the Wall’s forts located in modern Northumberland, provide remarkable and vivid evidence for the lives of ordinary people living at the edge of the Roman Empire. One (above) is an invitation written by a woman inviting her friend to a birthday party: a unique example from the Roman world of woman’s own handwriting.  Another was written by a young soldier, hundreds of miles from his family, sending them a letter asking them to send him some woolly socks and warmer underwear to cope with the British drizzle. Much like a modern university student, some things never change.

Rebecca Usherwood, Doctoral Researcher, University of Nottingham.

To learn more about Roman Nottinghamshire:

Blog by Mark Patterson, author of Roman Nottinghamshire (2011)

The University of Nottingham Museum, located at Lakeside Arts Centre, has a variety of archaeological artefacts from the Roman sites of Nottinghamshire, including towns, such as Margidunum and Ad Pontem, cemeteries and villas:



In Preparation

We are delighted to announce today’s blog is hosted by Ann Inscker, curator of The Treasures of Nemi exhibition. Here she reflects on her busy and challenging week preparing the museum space and displays for the exhibition’s launch, which took place last Friday, 19th July 2013.

Monday 15th July

Work was already in full swing, the galleries were painted, the majority of the objects had been brought up the hill from the Brewhouse Yard site and the plinths, altars and display shelving etc. were all being painted appropriate colours for the rooms into which they would eventually sit. The remarkable team of technicians, who I had not worked with previously, were all diligently going about their work with little fuss, under the supervision of the Design Technician, the Assistant Conservator and the Exhibition Officer, a very impressive site. I was accompanied by my two foreign placement students, Nicole from Australia and Sophie from Canada, on a museum and heritage programme from their respective home countries with Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln. They were my much needed extra pairs of hands, to make up for my current state being heavily pregnant with twins.



A couple of minutes after we arrived, Andrew from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, arrived with a wonderful watercolour and chalk drawing, “The Lake of Nemi and the town of Genzano’ by John Robert Cozens which was duly hung on the wall while he observed. This, the first object to be installed, is remarkable and although painted in the eighteenth century still reflects some of the mystic charm and serene beauty you might have observed in ancient times and which still lingers when you visit the lake today. Following Andrew’s departure our other loan items, a marble bust of Lord Savile, the excavator of our Nemi collection, arrived from Leeds Museums and a voluptuous painting of Diana, attributed to Antonio Bellucci {1716-22] from Northampton Museums. Sadly for my placement students the bust remained in it’s box awaiting a plinth from the workshop in the bowels of the Castle Museum and the painting was turned face down so that an assessment could be made for the fixings.

Thus we turned our attention to placing masking tape where some of the plinths and objects were to be located around the three galleries and moved a few of the completed items into place, where possible.

Tuesday 16th July

IMG_4722Sophie and Nicole carried on working  on their educational activity sheets for the gallery, while I ploughed on with other work of a classical nature, at my lap top in the gallery, until I was needed to give direction. Ian our labels and vinyl man arrived with the labels and a number of text panels and promises of a return visit on Friday to do the floor and wall vinyl and the technicians, having painted all the plinths several times, began arranging the wall shelving supports for the Etruscan and Roman building material displays.

We helped locate some of the plinths appropriately and watched with trepidation as Fundilia was put back together. A fracture along her left shoulder, established as result of the expanding iron inserts which would have originally held her arms on both sides, had previously expanded, resulting in a breakage once she was lifted in the stores to make her way up to the Castle. Fortunately, all was salvageable and the Assistant Conservator glued the two broken elements back together and left them over night to set. The red paint in the end gallery in which she will sit, provides a heightened sense of drama and sets off the marble sculptures beautifully.

Nemi, Military Uniforms etc. July 2013 002Nemi Exhibition set up 049

Nemi Exhibition set up 063

Wednesday  17th July

Work began on the altar layouts, starting with the Cica. Pre 200 BC layout. This case contains the largest number of objects at around 70 and so was a big challenge, though thoroughly needed to put across the cramped nature of Etruscan altars and to show the rich variety of figurines deposited, one of the unique features of the finds from Nemi. Another of my volunteers, John, joined me in the afternoon to take photographs of the installation.

The bust of Lord Savile by Van der Kerkhove Saibas, kindly loaned by Leeds Museums, was finally lifted on to a newly painted plinth by the team, his head subtly turned to observe visitors making their way in to the second gallery. Savile fittingly sits next to the superb Cozens watercolour. Leeds will be doing an exhibition on Savile in 2014 and are likely to request a number of items from this collection to join the material they hold from the Lanuvium villa of the emperor Antoninus Pius which Savile excavated prior to Nemi.

Nemi, Military Uniforms etc. July 2013 019  Nemi, Military Uniforms etc. July 2013 033


We laid out the banners representing the missing sculptures from the Fundilia Room, in the wall niches at the back of the sanctuary, leaving our sole representative, the Fundilia herm, as the star attraction. The other sculptures are at the Ny Carlesberg in Copenhagen and sadly floor loading and expense, prevented us from requesting the originals. Instead photographs of the portrait busts were printed on fabric, located in their correct positions and expertly hung by Design Technician Russell, using Boaden cable, named after Sir Frank Boaden, founder of Raleigh bicycles here in Nottingham and made from the same material for break cables no less!


Thursday 18th July [The Longest Day]

Having set up my Industrial volunteers down at Brewhouse and printed off the educational sheets worked on by placement students Nicole and Sophie, Nicole joined me in coming up to the Castle. Today was going to be very exciting, as the massive oak tree, representing the ‘Golden Bough’ of the Rex Nemorensis, or King of the Woods, was arriving. When we got up the hill the magnificent tree had already arrived and was looking fabulous against the red background walls. In the afternoon, I Christened, or should I say ‘Votived’ the tree, by being the first to follow Ovid’s description of messages in the trees around the sanctuary, by hanging my personal message in the tree. As I am pregnant, it seemed apt to ask for the safe delivery of my twins.


The first job after tree inspection, was to check and locate the reproduction images taken from Savile’s sepia photographs and those taken by myself and my husband, Mark, during our visit to the site in 2010. Unfortunately, a mini panic attack occurred when I realised 10 important images were missing. We rushed to the Exhibitions Team Office where Tris, the Exhibitions Officer, put through an urgent order with no guarantee that the items would turn up until the afternoon. Fingers were crossed and they turned up in the afternoon and were duly laid out in their appropriate locations.

We then commenced numbering the Pre and Post 200 BC altars, laid out and subsequently numbered the four pillar display cases [gaming, bone and glass, bronze and finally coinage] and lastly numbered the two architectural displays. Although this may not sound like a huge amount of work, all the checking against the layout plans and text, meant that neither myself, or poor Nicole, left the Castle until almost 7.30pm. As I had started at 7.30am, this was a long day and it wasn’t over yet. I had 17 applications for my maternity cover to look through once I got home, happy days.

The technicians had again proved themselves, setting up Asclepious, the herm of Lucius Faenius Faustus, possibly the oldest dedication to the lowliest of actors known and the majority of the architectural objects. The latter, being displayed at height, for the first time to my knowledge, and with a white, rather than yellow light, all look remarkable on the wall.

Friday 19th July [opening day and still a lot to do]

Earlier start today, again having set up my Industrial volunteers back at Brewhouse beforehand. I came up to the castle armed with the educational sheets and a number of site images checked against their formal names, giving me the chance to alter the arrangement of some of the site images before they went up. Today the floor and inscription wall vinyl arrives, along with the Byron material from Newstead Abbey [Childe Harrold’s Pilgrimage Forth Canto] and a number of Diana related items from Fine and Decorative Art, including a painting of Diana after Titian. The latter, based on a naked Venus draped across a bed, had recently returned from conservation work to the frame and cleaning. It would appear, the already sexy Diana was even sexier following her cleaning, as her arm had been over-painted to cover some of her modesty at a later date.

The team again worked perfectly and very calmly together, right up to the line, putting up the last of the text panels, the framed works, cabinet lids, labels, arranging the lighting and cleaning through the galleries and removing kit. Ian the vinyl specialist arrived to install the Via Verbia or ‘sacred way’ in the first gallery, the wall inscription of Diana’s attributes and the mosaic floor inscription in the Fundilia Room, all helping to set the scene. The galleries were finally completed at 6pm, just in time for the arrival of the public for the private view.

Having made a swift change, I arrived back at the castle in time to meet Associate Professor of Classics at Nottingham University, Katharina Lorenz, who would be opening the exhibition. I escorted her through the galleries, before taking her to the café to participate in the speeches. The turn out was very good with a number of familiar faces to the archaeological collections in attendance, including Mark Patterson who would be providing one of the lectures to accompany the exhibition and was there in his freelance reporter capacity, to write a critique of the exhibition for the ‘Nottingham Evening Post.’ On Monday Victoria Donnellan will come to do the same for ‘The Museums Journal.’

The exhibition was well received from all who came to speak to me and I was delighted to see the wonderful oak tree already carrying a number of votive messages. With my pregnant legs having swelled somewhat, I went home exhausted but elated that we had met the deadline. Only three more events to get through over the next two weeks, then I can pass the baton on to my maternity cover, whoever they may be.

Ann Inscker, curator at Nottingham City Museums and Galleries and the Treasures of Nemi: Finds from the Sanctuary of Diana exhibition.

Successful Interactive Interpretation

Nemi to Nottingham has been produced as part of a project which explores the positive impact that digital technology can have on archive accessibility. In this special guest-post freelance curator Sarah Hayes explains how interactive installations can be used to encourage public engagement with museum objects


The Medieval Model Interactive depicting Birmingham in the 13th century with a view of St Martin’s Church in the background.  (Image copyright Birmingham Museums Trust)

Interactives should be an engaging part of any exhibition but for many museum professionals they are still seen as an addition rather than an integrated aspect of a gallery or display. None of us are strangers to the criticism interactives have received over the years being described as pointless push-button activities with few learning outcomes. But they can actually serve as successful and stimulating features if developed from concept stage in line with the key messages of an exhibition. In this sense, they should be integral aspects developed with other means of interpretation, because interactives are exactly that: an extension of your interpretation.  And, most importantly, interactives don’t have to be digital.  I’ll draw on two examples taken from my most recent projects to illustrate how low tech, but well researched interactives can work really well.

If you follow my activities on Twitter, you’ve no doubt noticed that I’m pretty fond of the scale model depicting the medieval town of Birmingham, developed as a feature of the new History Galleries at BMAG. The beauty of this interactive, for me, is that it isn’t too sophisticated in terms of digital activity. In fact, the most high-tech features are the push-buttons positioned around the model which trigger lights, thereby illuminating characters in the town. Moreover this interactivity doesn’t predetermine your response. Yes, it guides your eye to a particular feature if you choose to press the button, but your reaction to that feature is entirely personal. The interactivity here encourages discovery rather than prescriptive learning.


Just one of the finer details of the model showing two inhabitants building a house by ‘raising the cruck’. (Image copyright Birmingham Museums Trust)

The model is certainly interactive in the traditional sense of the word, insofar as it stimulates discussions between groups of people as they point to features or discuss topics inspired by observing. The interactive is based on current archaeological and documentary evidence and it’s this research which makes this particular interactive, interactive! The sheer attention to detail sparks discussions and inspires curiosities and interests. But, in case this doesn’t satisfy the more technical heads and those who don’t view this as a fully-fledged interactive, let me draw on one last example.

By far my favourite interactive in the We Made It exhibition at Thinktank is the Woolrich Generator exhibit, which sits in the Treasure section. Again, it’s not digital, but instead relies on a very clever pepper’s ghost effect. As the visitor continuously winds a handle round to ‘generate’ electricity, the pepper’s ghost creates the illusion of a dull-grey trophy being gradually plated in silver. Obviously, there’s more to the science of electroplating, but this interactive conveys a very technical concept in a very straight-forward fashion by inviting the visitor to learn through interactivity.

Woolrich Generator

The Woolrich Generator Interactive on display in the new We Made It exhibition at Thinktank, perfectly positioned in front of the actual Woolrich Generator which dates from 1844. (Image copyright: Sarah Hayes)

One of the many things that I’ve taken from my time working on the Birmingham History Galleries and We Made It is not to become too fixated on interactives having to be superiorly digital, ‘flashy’ and high tech. They can certainly be all of those things providing they do the fundamental thing that all interactives should do: enable visitors to engage by participating, therefore offering an avenue for stealth learning and understanding. Last but not least, incorporate interactives in to a display because they help you interpret your themes and messages, and not because you think you have to. This will lead to far superior and successful interactive and multimedia elements.

Sarah Hayes, Freelance Curator. Follow me on Twitter @HayesSarah17 and my blog at

Tonight’s the night!

This evening, Nemi’s fabulous finds will be on display to the public for the first time in thirty years! No need to go to Italy – Nottingham brings ancient Rome to you!


If you aren’t attending the opening, get down to Nottingham Castle before the end of September to see the amazing material left by ancient Romans to honour the goddess Diana. Exhibition details here.


Votive figurine
Photo: ©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

Among the prize exhibits is our very own social media matron – a magnificent herm sculpture of a wealthy female patron of the ancient sanctuary. Follow Fundilia Rufa on twitter and facebook.


Marble herm sculpture of Fundilia Rufa
Photo: Donna Taylor

This blog will get you informed about all things Nemi before your visit with information, research and images. Once you’ve seen the exhibition, check back here for more posts on this amazing snapshot of ancient life and more ideas about our connections with the past in the modern world.


Terracotta lamp
Photo: ©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

Also check out the amazing series of events at the museum to coincide with the exhibition! Details are here.