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, 23 December 2015

Christmas in the Collections Office

Unlike the rest of Bath we in the Collections team breathe a sigh of relief when Christmas approaches: it means quieter days when the phone doesn’t ring, less emails come through the enquiries box, when half or more of our colleagues are away and even the buskers seem to be quieter: perhaps they are Christmas shopping as well.

The Baths are quieter (and in the early morning the Great Bath is wonderfully steamy); so we can do some of the glamorous parts of our job with impunity; dusting the inscriptions and models, checking silica gel in the cases (this is a dessicant which ensures that despite being damp outside, our cases stay dry and this protects all the metal objects) and checking the Roman monument.  We look forward to having a chance to do this during the dark January mornings and evenings.

With more than  36 volunteers and 5 placements working with us this year, its inevitable some mistakes are made: records have been left incomplete, things have ended up in the wrong boxes…..

On this year’s "to do" list is location checking: which is just like stocktaking in a shop: checking that objects are where the database says they are and that they’re in good condition.  We’ve started with photographs which were mainly taken by previous marketing teams.

Checking photographs is always fun, you never know what will turn up! An early photo of Swallow Street with sedan/bathchair hybrid and the Roman Baths in the background
We’ll be checking weights of the Beau Street Hoard coins ready for full publication of the coins to be published next year.

Verity's desk all ready (?) for Christmas 
And we have a chance to review and plan for the new year.  As a Museum Accredited with Arts Council England, we have a documentation plan that lists all the recording we have to do.  With over 64,000 records on our database, there’s only about 10,000 more objects to go!  A lot of this work will be done by volunteers so each object to be documented has to have its paperwork and history is ready for them.

So whilst you're munching on your mince pies, think of us ...

But we're looking forward to welcoming back our volunteers in mid January (a Collections Team is for life not just for Christmas)

Verity & Susan

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

New Keynsham Abbey display

About half way between Bath and Bristol is the town of Keynsham. Up until Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries on the 23rd of January 1539, it was home to the Keynsham order of Victorine Monks. While some remains can still be seen in situ in the north corner of Memorial Park, much of the Abbey was removed during the construction of the Keynsham Bypass. You can read about the work that is being undertaken with the Abbey Collection in Verity's previous blog.

As Keynsham is part of the Bath and North East Somerset Council, the Roman Baths has taken up care of objects collected from the Abbey site, including a large amount of stonework, and collection of small finds. As Keynsham itself does not have its own museum, there are currently a selection of Medieval tiles, pottery and stonework also from the Abbey on permanent display at the Keynsham ‘One-Stop-Shop’ and library, and just last  week we have installed a new display case containing small objects from the Abbey site.

When I began planning this display, I not only knew next to nothing about Keynsham and its Abbey, but I also knew incredibly little about Medieval Monks and how they lived. Now about a month later, after a few visits to the town, and reading many books, I do feel slightly less at risk of being exposed as a total Keynsham fraud. Although, my knowledge is still very basic!

I think the reason I have really enjoyed putting this display together is the variety of objects from the Abbey site that I had to choose from, including a bone flute, many keys, and a decorative, albeit slightly worried looking carved face. When choosing the objects for display I tried to pick items that were not only pretty and interesting, but similar to objects we have in our lives today. The Roman Baths looks after such a diverse collection from the local area that most people wouldn’t expect. It has been such an experience to be able to handle and work with these objects that were a part of lives so many years ago, and I am really pleased with how it has turned out.

Lead ventilation panel from the Abbey

The display “Life at the Abbey” is currently located on the first floor of the Keynsham One-Stop-Shop/Library. Downstairs you’ll find the aforementioned displays of tile, pottery and stonework, as well as well as Roman material including the amazing mosaics from Durley Hill Roman Villa.  So if you’re ever in the area looking to borrow a book, you could also have a cup of coffee and a look around the building, and maybe learn a little about Keynsham as well. 

We are grateful to Cllr Charles Gerrish who contributed his allowance from the ward councillors initiative programme to pay for the display case. 

Ella, Placement from New Zealand