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Bronze casting at Montale

Staff Exchange date: 
Wednesday, 11 April, 2012 to Sunday, 15 April, 2012
Traveling from: 
Goal(s): 
Guided tours To learn more about the ways other Open Air Museums interact with their visitors, in order to improve our own practises. We learnt a lot about tours and displays at Open Air Museums, but the situation is different from Archeon, as we have no archeological site. However, giving guided tours to, for instance, schoolchildren, is of course something we have experience with. We found it interesting how the activities were placed within a broader context through the use of presentations and explanation. The techniques used were different from us (guides did not wear thematic clothing, for instance), but educational all the same. It was difficult to participate, as the tour was entirely in Italian. We did not, therefore, participate first-hand.
Bronze Casting To experience new ways of presenting experimental actions or interactive displays, to look at providing a similar experience in Archeon. Bronze Casting is a popular display at any Open Air Museum, as it provides a spectacular way to demonstrate the production of bronze objects. Coupled with a display of the finished product or the object in-use, it is quite educational. The goal of this specific workshop was to place the activity of casting in a wider context. Our goal was to evaluate if this would be feasible in Archeon as well. The casting itself is something we do in Archeon. However, the workshop was most educational in how to provide additional information on the whole process, from prospecting to mining, to roasting, smelting, transportation, casting and finishing. The presentations were quite enlightening, but especially the last day of workshops, where we got to experience casting first-hand, but also had a go at finishing a bronze object with stone tools, was very educational. To put it in practise, as we were asked to do by conceptualising a way to implement this whole experience of bronze production at our own site, proved more difficult. But again, enlightening.
Chocolate casting The chocolate casting was a good example of providing the experience of casting to children, especially using appropriate moulds of bronze-age objects. We have experimented with chocolate casting before, but the setting was not ideal. The almost clinical and professional atmosphere of the chocolate casting in this case was something we might like to try as well.
Evaluation: 

Guided Tours

We took part in a guided tour of a group of schoolchildren at the Open Air Museum. They were presented with a number of slides and a long explanation (in Italian, of course) on the Archeology of the site. This explanation was rather long, some 30-45 minutes. The associated activity of digging for archeological finds is one we have had in Archeon in the past, but we found that too few of the children could actively participate. However, it did work in this setting. The cataloguing of the finds afterwards placed the activity in a wider setting. This is very good from an educational point of view, but again, costs quite a bit of time.

From this experience we can take home the idea of placing concrete activities in a broader (academic) context. But in Archeon our experience is that the activities and associated tours should be much shorter, also due to the fact that we often have large numbers of visitors on-site.

Bronze Casting

Learning from the Bronze casting displays in the Open Air Museum, we found it curious that they were done in modern clothing and in a modern context. We are used to having our displays and our tour-guides (Archeo-interpreters) in thematic (prehistoric, roman, medieval, etc) clothing. However, by placing the guide or the demonstrator outside of the context of the actual activity of casting, the focus comes to lie more completely on the activity or demonstration itself. The guide / archeologist also has more (academic) authority when not in thematic clothing.

Being able to participate first-hand in bronzecasting is a great experience and could even be offered to interested parties (archeologists for instance) as a workshop or as part of a teambuilding exercise, for instance. It has also inspired us to resurrect a weekly bronzecasting meeting among our own staff. And a weekly or monthly bronze casting demonstration for our visitors.

Placing the casting itself in a broader context again, by making the casting part of a process (prospecting, mining, transporting, casting, finishing, trading), enriches the whole experience. Brainstorming on how to implement the activity and also the context of the activity is something that can be applied to many displays, not just bronzecasting.

Number of Participants: 
2
Name(s): 
L, Visser
M. Veldman

Images

At the bronze casting tent
Preparation for the presentation
Happy with the results!
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