Category Archives: Museums & Display

Roman Pavement with 123D Catch

After the Gurob ship here’s my own attempt at 3D modelling – done during the Brown MOOC.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s part of a tesselated pavement from a 2nd century CE Roman building in Colchester. There’s a commentated movie version too, which I’ll try to add.

View it here:  123D Catch Commented Video

This was created in 123D Catch. Never did work out how to patch up the blank spots but it’s an OK example of how you can make something quite interesting with (relatively) simple tools.

Anyone for a wiki-museum?


Gurob Ship 3-d Model

The Gurob Ship is a small ship model excavated by assistants of W. M. F. Petrie in Gurob, Egypt, in 1920. Recently the model has been re-examined by Shelley Waschmann.

Wachsmann believes that the model offers evidence of the “sea peoples” and explains his analysis in “The Gurob Ship-Cart Model and Its Mediterranean Context“.  His “Seagoing Ships and Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant” is one of my favorite books so I’m particulalrly interested by this new work, There’s a good summary/review  the Aegeus Society web site but at £55 I’ll try and find a library copy.

There is also a useful digital supplement that is freely available  at This is interesting because it uses a 3-d model to show the reconstructed model in a way that allows web viewers to exlore it in some detail. This was a technique we practiced in the Brown MOOC, so it’s interesting to see it in a real archaeological project.

Hvar Fortress Museum

I’ve been on my hols and had an excellent trip from Rome to Venice via some ports on the Dalmatian Coast. One place we dropped into was Hvar in Croatia.

In the fortress overlooking the town is a small but  informative museum exhibiting finds from local wrecks. They are later than my real areas of interest but the finds from Lastovo, Palkagruza and Cape Izmetišće wrecks were interesting. In particular the collection of 2nd century CE ceramics from the Cape Izmetišće underline the importance of maritime trade for bulk transport of goods – over 2500 pieces were recovered.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mainly for my own benefit I recorded the English museum captions and took a few (not very good) pictures: Hvar Museum Captions. I’ve not found other material about these wrecks on-line so posting them here might make them better known.

If this encourages you to go to Hvar, then terrific : it’s a lovely spot and while the climb up to the museum is hard work on a hot day the view from the top and the lemonade in the cafe are worth it!

The Ethics of Artefact Ownership

Who owns the past? This is a question we’ve been looking at this week in the Brown course (more details on this in a later post).

Guildhall in Northampton (England)

In response to this we had an exercise to look at the question of ownership and I took as my example the current debate going on in Northampton surrounding the statue of Sekhemka.

If you aren’t already aware of what’s going on with this you might like to read this short article….

Who Owns The Past – Sekhemka

Thoughts on the Mary Rose Museum

The Cowdray engraving of the battle of the Sol...

The Cowdray engraving of the battle of the Solent, 1545. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the risk of sounding a discordant note amongst the paeans of praise heaped upon the new Mary Rose Museum I want to raise one concern over the way it presents itself. I’ve seen the Mary Rose twice before; once very soon after the raising and once in the late 1990’s and there’s no doubt its one of the UK’s most impressive collections of maritime heritage.

The new museum is a terrific piece of work in many ways and the many (very many) artefacts are well displayed and shown in context of the lives of their owners on board. Its logically laid out, mostly well labelled and, within the necessary constraints of keeping lighting low to preserve objects, easy to enjoy and learn from.

Where I wasn’t so happy was that the hull of the ship seems almost like a side show – tucked away behind a wall with small viewing windows that aren’t always convenient if you are short (or I could imagine, in a wheel chair). All the focus is on the stuff found on the ship and then mainly on things that could be related to crew members rather than the ship itself. There isn’t much presented on the structure of the ship, how it was built or its history up to the sinking. There is precious little on the finding of the ship – Alexander McKee’s work and Margaret Rule – or on the techniques of excavation or conservation, all of which deserve a bigger part of the presentation.

There are some stunning things here (the reconstruction of the archer alongside his skeleton, the interactive display of the painting of the sinking (the Cowdray engraving, above) and the parallel “hull” with objects in place were to me three high points), it’s just a shame that the museum doesn’t seem to think (on the strength of the displays) that the ship itself is very significant.

A few words about the overall Dockyard site itself – the place is a shambles, with things widely spread out and no real coherence between the exhibits. This is partly because of the way that they ticket individual attractions but partly how they have managed the use of the buildings available, and I suppose the restrictions of sharing the site with the Navy. The museum could take a leaf out of Ironbridge Gorge’s book in organising a spread out venue with multiple attractions. They need a core section that gives a heart to the whole thing, lose the new, nailed-on visitor centre (and use one of the sheds) and create a more integrated experience for the site as well as the individual ships / exhibits. They need to rethink the concessions too – the jumble of an antique shop, the run down feel of Boathouse No. 7 and the less than wonderful catering. Nice branding – shame about the product.

P.S. They also need to get the car park “free spaces” display fixed on the approach – it was showing 120 spaces as we drove onto a queue to find at the head “car park full” signs. Stuck in a narrow street (Admiralty Road) with no real opportunity to turn around, it took us 30 minutes to get into the car park. As we walked to the dockyard gate we passed another car park (in Wickham Street, I think) : half the price and no queue.