By Pieter Houten
After a month of touring we reached the last leg: The Netherlands. We all did parts of the tour, but not Alex the Driver from Van Haulin’, who was there for the whole month. We owe great thanks to Alex for putting up with all of us and driving our precious cargo around! Curmisagius and his team could not have wished for a better companion.
The last stop was the Thermenmuseum in Heerlen. I must admit that I am slightly biased when talking about this museum; it is in my home region. Nonetheless, our three days there were outright amazing. The museum staff got inspired by our collaboration to make their own temporary exposition on evidence for writing found in Roman Heerlen. As if organising your own exposition is not enough, the museum staff, especially Jody Martens, went all in to organise a memorable last stop. One of these memorable events was an interview with the provincial newspaper to spread the word.
Thursday morning started really well when we discovered that the article in the newspaper was not a small item, as the journalist stated at first, but a half page article with a prominent position. As we arrived at the museum for our first day, Jody told us that the article had people signing up for our public lecture the next day. The Thursday itself was, as we called it, an internal research day. We did an RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) demonstration to introduce the technique and afterwards we had a research meeting with archaeologists from the region. For three hours we discussed possible ways to collaborate in the future and understand the international context better. At three o’clock we had to finish as the local magistrate for cultural heritage Jordy Clemens was invited to officially open our exhibition and the History month at the museum. Another surprise was the unveiling of an inscription, yes an actual marble inscription, commemorating our joint venture. The whole day museum guide Peter took the role of ambassador for LatinNOW at our display.
Friday was supposed to be a rather normal day. People visiting the museum, seeing our exhibition and talking to us. Not in Heerlen. They organised a mini-symposium ‘Ite et Docete’ for schools in the region where two Nijmegen university lecturers were invited to present. To finish the mini-symposium we gave a public talk for the over 90 pupils present. As this symposium and public lecture filled up too quickly, Jody asked us to do it again in the afternoon. Thanks to the article in the newspaper, we had another 73 people attending in the afternoon. As if these two massive events were not enough at least four school groups from Germany visited the museum. We were glad that another of our post-docs, Anna Willi, could join us to lead these in German whilst I handled the Dutch.
The last day in Heerlen was Saturday, luckily a slightly quiet day. We had the odd visitor passing by for the Roman Bathhouse and enjoying their luck that we were there. In addition, we had 32 children for the Workshop Curse like a Roman. With 62 visitors, Saturday gave us some breathing space, after two days of over 200 visitors. We celebrated the success with some real Limburgse vlaoj.
In total several thousand people saw our 6-country, 6-language touring exhibition as we made our way across the Continent. We had a clicker and counted well over 2000 engagements, that is children and adults who came to our talks/school sessions/tried out our activities and spent time discussing Romans with us. With our idea to put all our material freely available on our website we hope to continue the outreach of our project to the European community. And… don’t tell the LatinNOW team just yet, we’re still recovering… we are planning some UK events this summer too!