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Fostering creativity and innovation - Limes projects

Thursday, 1 January, 2015 to Thursday, 31 December, 2015
Organised by: 
Marc van Hasselt
Number of Participants / Visitors / Audience: 

One series of projects that fosters creativity and innovation in both the recreation and museum fields, are based on a common theme. In the case of Archeon in 2015, this theme is the Roman Limes. The Limes was the northern border of the Roman empire and reached from Britain to the Middle East. Parts of the Limes have been placed on the Unesco World Heritage list (like Hadrian's Wall and the German part of the Limes). In the Netherlands, several projects by local governments, businesses and institutions have come together with the common goal of adding the Dutch part of the Limes to the Unesco World Heritage list as well.

With the insights and help provided by the OpenArch project, Archeon has been able to play a key role in placing the local in an international context. Several Limes projects have taken place in the course of the project, below are outlined a number of case studies.

As the Dutch Limes is no longer visible in the landscape, since there are no ruins of buildings above ground, several initiatives have been put forward in order to increase visibility. Examples include an outline of a Roman Castellum in the centre of Utrecht; Roman watchtowers along the Limes (Fort Vechten, Leidsche Rijn); or an abstract representation of a Castellum in Leiden (Matilo).

In Alphen a/d Rijn, near Archeon, the city council wanted a landmark with the same purpose. As part of an OpenArch seminar and lecture, students of Leiden University were asked to give suggestions for the design and use of a Roman watchtower. One of the suggestions was actually not to build a tower at all, but another visibly Roman landmark. After going back to the city council, the decision was made to design and build the profile of a Roman centurion. This landmark would be visible and, more importantly, instantly recognisable from the nearby motorway. This permanent addition to the landscape would not have been possible without the OpenArch project.

Roman Runs
A popular past time in the Netherlands is running. Either for personal training, or with the goal of running (half) marathons. There is a national event which involves walking for 4 days/evenings (avond vierdaagse). As part of increasing public awareness of the Roman history of the Netherlands and the Limes in particular, the part of this event that took part in Alphen a/d Rijn 18-21 may 2015 was called 'Roman Runs' and ran through Archeon. With funding from the local government, the runners were invited to dress up in Roman clothing and join Archeon staff in running through the city and site.

Reconstructions and Crowdfunding
One way the Limes can be made visible and an experience for the public, is through the use of water. The story of the Netherlands is inextricably linked to water and ships. A number of ships from the Roman era have been found in the Netherlands, including a number from Zwammerdam. A reproduction of one of these ships was made in 1994, but has suffered 20 years of wear and tear.

As part of the initiatives to increase public awareness of the Roman past and the Limes in particular, a crowdfunding campaign through was initiated, to try and raise the necessary funds to repair the ship reconstruction. It resulted in a number of articles in the press and attention paid to the project online. Also, with assistance from the local government, a canopy was erected to safeguard the reconstruction and allow repairs to be made. Along with an informative sign, it has become a permanent addition to the visitors experience, showing not just the historical processes involved in daily life, but also the modern process of reconstruction and repair.

Roman Maritime Museum concept
An extension of the concept of using Roman ships as the image of the Dutch stretch of the Limes, Archeon has spent some time working on a concept in conjunction with (local) government. The Roman Maritime Museum would be the hub of a national push for recognition of the unique nature of the Dutch Limes.

In the Roman Museum at Archeon, temporary exhibits regularly showcase specific archaeological sites, explore themes related to (Roman) local history and place these themes in a national and international context. Visitors are invited to see the local site as part of a broader whole, not just regionally, but globally.