Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom
August 16, 2004
The museum is split into three sections. By far the largest with over 700 artefacts, the Roman Exhibition was obviously designed with younger visitors in mind. Interactive and colourful, the touch screen games, puzzles, video footage and hands-on exhibits allow visitors to try on Roman clothing, feel the weight of ring mail armour, build an arch and experience life on a simulated archaeological dig. The central area, built to resemble the original fort, has a number of interesting exhibits including a collection of rounded stones once used as defensive missiles and the only stone toilet seat from Roman Britain.
A set of stairs to the right of the room leads up to the Industry and Exhibition Galleries. A nine-minute film entitled 'From Segedunum to Wallsend' details the history of the area, cleverly cutting between historical re-enactments and real-life footage. The shots of Hadrian's Wall are stunning, while an emotive section details the history of the nearby colliery including the 19th century disaster in which 103 miners were killed by an underground explosion. Next door, the Exhibition Gallery showcases archaeological finds from the area including an altar, inscribed stone fragments, text and photos of the Wall between Newcastle and Wallsend. At the very top of the building, the thirty-five metre high Tower Panorama – a centurion’s helmet stuck on an air traffic control tower - offers an enlightening view of the excavations below.
The ruins outside represent one of the most completely excavated forts in the Roman Empire, comprising the Commanding Officer's House, the headquarters building, granaries, workshops, cavalry and infantry barracks, water tanks, and what is though to have been a hospital. The highlight of a visit to Segedunum, however, is undoubtedly the reconstructed bathhouse. Based on original remains found elsewhere on the Wall and the only one of its kind in the country, the whitewashed, red-tiled building opens for approximately twenty minutes on the stroke of every hour. There are four baths of varying temperatures on either side of the central changing room; interesting text displays fill in the background to each of the baths, which may soon be opened fully to visitors for an authentic Roman bathing experience.
From journal How The North Was Won