Seizing the Day in Pompeii: Dr Paul Roberts at Museum Council Launch

This week, we were very excited to launch our first ever Rumble Museum Council. A group of 15 students from Years Eight, Nine and Ten, met for a breakfast meeting to begin their journey as students closely connected with the direction and development of the museum at Cheney School.

The Museum Council will take part in a number of exciting projects, and students will get special access to behind-the-scenes museum staff and exhibitions to help gain an understanding of how museums operate. Our first project is with the Ashmolean and their “Last Supper in Pompeii” Exhibition, so we were especially delighted to welcome Dr Paul Roberts, the curator of the exhibition, to talk to the group about the exhibition and how it was designed.

Paul have the students a virtual tour of some of the very striking aspects of the exhibition, including an olive oil jar that had not been opened since the eruption in 79 AD (and which still smelled of olive oil!), a body of a Roman woman preserved in resin, making it transparent, and very moving to see, a distribution centre for foodstuffs in the Roman Empire, and beautifully-preserved amphorae, statues, and even a lamp stand!

Paul talked about the overarching theme of the exhibition, which was the importance of feast and food in Roman culture. He talked about how Romans reclined to eat in the triclinium (meaning “three couches”), and the sort of foods they ate – doormice, baby goat and pig were popular, but beef was less so. The exhibition features a mosaic of a skeleton from a Roman dining room floor, showing how the Romans were always very aware of mortality, and their art and inscriptions bore witness to this.

The group will be working on an exciting exhibition project over the next few weeks and will be visiting the Pompeii Exhibition in two weeks’ time. We are very grateful to Dr Roberts for such a stimulating and inspiring talk to launch the Museum Council.