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, 18 November 2015

Cataloguing Keynsham

Cataloguing museum collections is no mean feat. Back in 2011 The Roman Baths Collections team, helped by some hardy volunteers spent a number of days recording archaeological material held in the basement of Keynsham Town hall. These were objects excavated from three key sites in Keynsham’s history, the Roman villa discovered at Durley Hill, the Roman house at Somerdale and the Medieval Abbey (the remains of which are In Keynsham, Memorial Park). Excavated in the 1920’s the material from both Somerdale and Durley Hill had previously been held in the museum at the Cadbury’s site. The storage situation in Keynsham Town Hall was by no means ideal including stonework laid out as it had been excavated or would have been constructed originally. With the closure of the Town Hall and the demolition of the building imminent, the accessioning of the collections had to be done in unusual circumstances on a tight time scale, before being moved to where they are currently stored at our Pixash Lane Archaeology Store.

Window from Keynsham Abbey laid out in Town Hall basement

Since the collection was accessioned in 2011 work has been carried out on some of the collection to produce a more detailed catalogue of information, however this has not been comprehensive, and as such there are large portions of the collection that need further cataloguing.

The collection from Keynsham Abbey comprises some 2200 objects predominantly excavated in advance of the building of Keynsham Bypass in the 1960s. Many of these objects have only a basic identification, in order that the collection can be best made accessible, further information identifying each object is needed. The collection is currently organised by type of material, which makes dividing jobs quite easy; and so it was that in September a band of local volunteers started cataloguing the Medieval floor tiles. Barbara Lowe, the key excavator of Keynsham Abbey had published a catalogue of the tiles and to date the accessioning of the tiles had related to the tile design in the publication.

One of the Medieval tiles photographed by volunteers

Our local volunteers have valiantly begun photographing, weighing and describing the 34 boxes of Medieval tiles, using this publication as a reference; they’ve also been measuring stonework and accessioning even more tiles…and let’s not forget helping with an open day!


Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Spiders invade St John’s Store

As part of our Heritage Open Week event at our St John’s local history store this year we had a trail looking at our pest management procedures, – not as dire as it sounds!

We positioned large dangling plastic spiders as clues to the location of pictures of pests and their food stuffs. Children had to connect the pest with what it eats and how we stop them from damaging our collection.

So for instance, one spider sat above our bath chair, and on its fabric lined seat was a picture of a clothes moth and a moth trap was placed nearby.  This fiendish device contains pheromones which attract then trap male moths so they can’t go and find females to mate with… 

Insect traps are in the forefront of our battle against the creepy crawlies: silverfish eat paper so visitor books, letters and posters are at risk, but as a non-flier it is easier to control. However, the inappropriately named woodworm, actually a beetle, are the greatest threat in St John’s with 39 pieces of furniture stored there. Again insect traps near windows and doors help.  Regular visual checks ensure none get their teeth into the wood.  If furniture is infested, treating with a special insecticide and then keeping them isolated from the rest of the store, ensures no beetle escapes.

The handy English Heritage guide to Museum pests

The number of nasty nibblers who love wool, carpets, and other fabrics are many.  But they were represented in our quiz by the carpet beetle, again caught by insect traps and vigilant checking. 

Rodents are always a concern in old buildings and St John’s is in an 1875 school, but, mercifully, all holes are blocked and we do not suffer.   But traps and poison are used in the other buildings where we also store collections.

Children seemed to be unfazed by the prospect of killing pests and were very matter of fact about the demise of mice at home.

Good housekeeping: regular checks and cleaning are important and when not open, we use Tyvek covers to protect the collection. And at the event we displayed these and some of the tools we use: from soft brushes, cotton buds, a hoover as well as protection for us, the cleaners: dust masks and vitrile gloves. 

Verity covering up the furniture in St John's after our event with Tyvek covers

The final question on the trail was whether spiders and humans were pests or friends.  Our young visitors quickly grasped the idea that although spiders catch flies, their webs make cleaning difficult and the sticky fingers and messy habits of humans are sometimes worse than the smaller pests!

Note: no pest (regretfully) was harmed during this event.