Fiona Finch discovers how one small Lancashire museum is seeking donations to care for a unique Roman legacy and safeguard its future by providing optimum display and storage conditions.
It is unique in Lancashire.
It celebrates the past and is now looking to the future.
Ribchester Roman Museum has just launched an appeal to raise funds for vital conservation and computer equipment.
The county’s only Roman museum is also seeking more volunteers.
Curator Patrick Tostevin says some £8,000 will be needed to purchase and install essential environmental monitoring equipment, humidity control apparatus and buy a new computer.
He said: “Without this equipment we can’t look after the collections properly which range from inscribed stone to many different kinds of pottery, both locally produced and foreign imports, very sensitive collections of metalwork and organic materials, including things like leather work."
Patrick continued: “Our collection is 100 per cent Ribchester and Ribble Valley finds. We are the only specialist Roman museum in the county.”
The museum is renowned for its extensive range of finds and its replica of the famous bronze Roman ceremonial helmet discovered nearby by a boy in 1796.
Its collection of leather work includes the remains of soles of shoes, equine equipment and tents, straps and belts. Patrick added: “There is also importantly evidence for leather working on site, offcuts from articles clearly manufactured in Ribchester.”
Potential roles for volunteers range from working on the reception desk at the Riverside museum to helping with events and ongoing museum projects .
Patrick said: “We’ve always got a shortage of volunteers. There are all sorts of jobs that need doing at the museum. We need cover at the weekends. We have a dedicated team of volunteers but we need it added to.”
He stressed any age group is welcome with past volunteers ranging from students to the retired.
Revealing future plans for an area for school parties to picnic, he said: “If there are any keen gardeners we have the outside to look after.”
Patrick explained that once a current UCLan archaeological dig in the village is completed and the spoil heap created has been removed, museum land by the remains of the Roman granaries could be used by visiting school groups.
He said: “We’ll have to get permission because it’s a scheduled monument, but we should get it because we’ll not disturb the site. We could turn it into a picnic area for children and also want to establish a Roman style garden. We want to illustrate what plants the Romans used in Britain - it would include food and medicinal plants.”
Likely plants include box for hedging, fig, hazelnut, apple and sloe trees, grape vines, cherries, strawberries, blackberries, dill and coriander herbs.
The museum’s appeal has been launched just weeks before the Romans are set to re-visit Ribchester.
This summer sees the return of Roman re-enactment group the Roman Military Research Society and the arrival of another, Conroi, for a weekend of events on July 13/14 which will provide an insight into the village’s historic past as Roman fort Bremetennacum Veteranorum.
The Roman Festival, which has been held every year bar two since 1994, is a museum event which attracts visitors from a wide area. Attractions range from military displays, including firing of artillery, archery and the Roman cavalry to demonstrations of everyday life in Roman times.
Patrick said: “It’s an established event. Roman history appeals to a broad range of people.”
He added: “It’s good to have Roman cavlary here...There was a garrison of 500 cavalry stationed here.”
Visitors will also be able to view the current excavation work. It is the final year of the UCLan dig and archaeologists will be available to discuss finds on the site of the former Northern Gateway.
Roman Festival and Dig Visits
• Roman Festival admission on July 13/14 is £6 for adults, concessions £4.50 and children £3.50. Displays open at 11am with first performances at 11.30am.The fee includes entrance to the Ribchester Roman Museum.
• To volunteer or support the appeal contact Patrick on 01254 878261 or at email@example.com
• To donate to the appeal see www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ribchester-museum