Heritage tourism: Cambridge University Museums

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge © David Gill

Cambridge University Museums play an important part in the visitor economy for Cambridge (1.3 million visitors in 2019). The Fitzwilliam Museum is the most visited, though there has been a steady decrease in recent years from 441,000 in 2016 to 349,000 in 2019. The Cambridge University Botanic Gardens have seen a steady increase to 334,000 in 2019.

The refurbished Kettle’s Yard and the University Museum of Zoology have seen a substantial increase in numbers, 231,000 and 134,000 respectively in 2019.

Heritage tourism: East Anglia

Ickworth © David Gill

The top seven paid heritage visitor attractions in East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk) account for 1.1 million visitors a year (2018). Four are properties managed by the National Trust: Ickworth, Blickling Hall, Felbrigg Hall, and Oxburgh Hall. Framlingham Castle is managed by English Heritage.

Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery © David Gill

There is a single museum, the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

Sheringham Station, the Poppy Line © David Gill

The Poppy Line (North Norfolk Railway) is also in the top seven.

Chart © David Gill

Heritage Tourism in Greece: Nestor’s Palace

Nestor’s Palace © David Gill

The bronze age palace near Pylos was the findspot of a major archive of Linear B tablets that shed light on the economy of this part of Messenia. The location is popularly known as Nestor’s Palace.

The finds from the site are displayed in the nearby Chora Museum. Notice how the forecourt makes the visual allusion to the hearth in the palace.

Chora Museum © David Gill
Chora Museum © David Gill

Both locations attract significant numbers of tourists to this part of the Peloponnese. I have added data from the nearby museum at Pylos that also contains some regional finds.

Data Source: Hellenic Statistical Service. Chart © David Gill.

Hagia Sophia and UNESCO World Heritage

Hagia Sophia © David Gill

The historic area of Istanbul was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. One of the finest structures in this part of the city is the 6th century church of Hagia Sophia that was turned into a mosque following the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Under Kemal Atatürk the building was turned into a museum emphasising the secular nature of the republic.

It is now proposed to turn the structure back into a mosque (“Hagia Sophia: Turkey delays decision on turning site into mosque“, BBC News 2 July 2020). The topic has been widely discussed in Greece (e.g. “Museum or mosque? Turkey debates iconic Hagia Sophia’s status“, ekathimerini.com 1 July 2020). France has now added its voice to the debate (e.g. “France says Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia must remain open to all“, ekathimerini.com 2 July 2020).

Rome: The Hadrianeum

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Relief probably from the Hadrianeum (Capitoline Museum) © David Gill

The Hadrianeum in Rome lay in the Campus Martius on the west side of the Via Lata, to the south of the Ara Pacis. Parts of the temple can be seen along one side of the Piazza di Pietra. Eleven Corinthian columns, made of Proconnesian marble, as well as the north side of the cella are incorporated into the Borsa.

There is no epigraphic evidence to confirm the identity of the temple although Antoninus Pius dedicated one to him in this area in AD 145; this is the most likely interpretation for this structure.

A series of 24 reliefs cut from Proconnesian marble have been associated with the temple. They were probably incorporated on the cella. The figure shown here, holding a vexillum, probably represents the province of Mauretania. The relief showing shields and an axe probably represent trophies.

For more of the reliefs, including those in Naples, see Following Hadrian.

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The Hadrianeum, Rome © David Gill

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Relief from the Hadrianeum, Rome (Capitoline Museum) © David Gill

Melrose Abbey: commendator’s house

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Melrose Abbey © David Gill

The Commendator’s House at Melrose Abbey was constructed in the 15th century although its original function is not clear. It became the Commendator’s House in 1590 (recorded above the lintel of the house) after the Reformation.

It now house the site museum that includes finds from the nearby Roman fort at Newstead.

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Melrose Abbey, Commendator’s House © David Gill

Academic journals: Journal of Conservation & Museum Studies

Journal summary: The Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies (JCMS) has an overall focus on the care and exhibition of collection items. The scope thus includes conservation science, artefact studies, restoration, museum studies, environment studies, collection management and curation.

Publisher: UCL / Institute of Archaeology / Ubiquity Press

Website: https://www.jcms-journal.com/

Access: Open access

Journal type: Academic peer-reviewed

Suffolk Museum of the Year 2019

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Suffolk Museum of the Year 2019 © David Gill

The Awards Ceremony for Suffolk Museum of the Year 2019 was held at the University of Suffolk on Wednesday 30 October 2019. I was honoured to be one of the judges and we were all impressed by the variety and quality of museums across the county.

The results:

  • Suffolk Museum of the Year 2019: large category. The Red House, Aldeburgh
  • Suffolk Museum of the Year 2019: small category. Bawdsey Radar
    • Highly Commended: Felixstowe Museum
  • Innovation Award. Ipswich Museum
  • Family Friendly Award. Lowestoft Maritime Museum
  • Volunteers of the Year: Natural Science Volunteer Team at Ipswich Museum
    • Highly Commended: Elaine Nason from Laxfield Museum and Paul Durbidge from Lowestoft Museum
  • Schools Session Award. Palace House

Object of the Year was … The Tin of Chocolate Worm Cakes from the Museum of East Anglian Life.

Many congratulations to the winners and all those taking part.

News items

  • Story in the EADT (31 October 2019)

Jupiter Dolichenus at Vindolanda

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Vindolanda, temple of Jupiter Dolichenus © David Gill

The sanctuary of Jupiter Dolichenus lies just inside the northern ramparts of the fort at Vindolanda. It was excavated in 2009.

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Vindolanda, altar of Jupiter Dolichenus © David Gill

One of the finds was a stone inscribed altar (now displayed in the museum). It bears a relief of Jupiter standing on the back of a bull. The inscription is dedicated to Jupiter Dol<o>chenus by Sulpicius Pudens, prefect of the Fourth Cohort Gallorum.

Sulpicius Pudens also appears on a second altar dedicated to Jupiter (but not Jupiter Dolichenus) that was found at Staward Pele in 1885 (RIB 1688). The earliest dedication to Jupiter was probably made by the prefect Quintus Petronius Urbicus dating to 213-235 (RIB 1686). Another prefect also made a dedication to Jupiter (RIB 1687). A fourth inscription, dedicated Naevius Hilarus, probably came from Vindolanda (RIB 2062). Some of these may have been dedicated in the praetorium building.

The Fourth Cohort Gallorum was stationed at Vindolanda from c. 213 to 367. The unit is identified in an inscription of c. 213 (RIB 1705). The unit is recorded in a building inscription of 223 (RIB 1706); it probably relates to the rebuilding of the south gate of the fort. The cohort is recorded on an inscription that dates to the reign of Probus, 276–282 (RIB 1710). Another prefect, Pituanius Secundus, erected an altar to the genius of the praetorium at Vindolanda (RIB 1685).

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Altar dedication by Quintus Petronius Urbicus from Vindolanda, Chesters Museum © David Gill

The long road to museum transformation

I was delighted to attend the Opening Reception last night at the National Museums of Scotland to celebrate the completion of the 15 year transformation of the main National Museum building on Chambers Street in Edinburgh.  As the final three galleries to be represented included the East Asia gallery, we were treated to a performance of Japanese drumming, which echoed amazingly through the main atrium of the Museum.NMS drums

Speeches were kicked off by the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Fiona Hyslop, who re-emphasised the point the culture is at the heart of flourishing societies, and were a vital part of public life (and policy).  She has consistently stuck to this script, and as a longstanding political overseer of the culture and heritage portfolio in Scotland, it remains heartening to hear her continue to win the argument for culture within Government realms.  Were that always the case south of the border, and oh to have a culture minister in England that lasted more than a couple of years!

We were then given short speeches by the National Museums Scotland Chair, Bruce Minto; the Chair of the Scottish Committee of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Dame Seona Reid (formerly known as the HLF, but renamed as part of their new strategic plan last week); and finally by Dr Gordon Rintoul, who as Director of NMS has seen the project through from the start.  We then headed off to view the new galleries – covering ancient Egypt, East Asia and ceramic collections – and were left to ponder whether 15 years on, and with the changing fashions and expectations for museum display and experiences, whether it is time to start the whole process again, akin to painting the Forth Bridge.