Could we make the Roman Forum better?
This evening I went to a ‘conversation’ at the American Academy in Rome between Ian Hodder and Andrea Carandini (two titans of archaeology, you might say, but coming from rather different directions).
There were all kinds of interesting things that came up. Hodder was particularly sharp on the issues of digging in a foreign country (what version of colonialism is that? or of multiculturalism for that matter?) and on how you engage local people in any kind of archaeological project (how do you prevent a dig becoming a no go zone for the residents?). Carandini enthused about his discoveries in the Roman Forum (on which we have clashed in the past, and he was very generous).
But one underlying theme was what we thought a ‘heritage site’ could offer to general intelligent visitors. There are all kinds of bad example in every country. To be honest, my last visit to Stonehenge (admittedly several years ago) could not have been much worse. My question at the discussion was: what three things might we do (money no object) to enhance a visit to the Roman Forum?
Carandini talked about having screens in the evening telling the exciting stories of these sites (non invasively). Hodder asked us to wonder about how far we might let some sites go (can we actually preserve all the bits of the past we excavate? no). One experienced tour guide in the audience suggested putting more gravel down to dampen the dust that got in everyone’s eyes. I thought that it would be good to open the churches that surround the forum, so you could enter them from the site (breaking down, following Hodder, the archaeological zone and reuniting it with the city).
But any ideas, people? How would YOU improve a visit to the Forum? Or are you happy already?