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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Archaeology for the Public.
by M J E Syddell and P W Woollett.

An unqualified success is the best description which can be given to the one-day archaeological and numismatic exhibition held last September in Rochester. The two organising societies, the Lower Medway Archaeological Research Group and the Medway Towns Numismatic Society, had no inkling that the response from the public would be so great.

The exhibition was open for just eight hours, and during that time nearly 900 people passed through the doors at 2 shillings a time. This figure would certainly have topped the 1,000 mark had it not been for a torrential thunderstorm for an hour during mid-afternoon.

The Corn Exchange, Rochester, was found to be the ideal venue because it was the right size to accommodate all the interesting material from the two Groups without any duplication. Its position was also of crucial importance, in that many passing motorists caught in the Rochester Saturday "jam" were attracted in by the compelling posters, prepared by the Medway Art College, and information on parking facilities.

Assistance from local newspapers in printing news about the exhibition, plus posters distributed widely in local factories, schools, offices, shops etc. and tickets sold beforehand all created enthusiasm amongst local people. The power of intensive advance publicity cannot be underestimated. Advance tickets sales, for instance, covered all the costs of putting on the exhibition before it opened, leaving the Groups free from worry about the whims of weather on the day.

The tie-up between the LMARG and MTNS was a natural combination because the two fields are closely connected and both command widespread interest. Detailed discussion between the groups ensured that there was continuity of display.

Many members from both groups and other helpers put in much hard work, and although it is invidious to pick out specific exhibits, the following must be mentioned: a cut-away scale model of a Romano-British pottery kiln of the type found at Iwade, a diorama of a Roman road at Bluebell Hill, and a display prepared by the Eccles Excavation Committee. The LMARG is also grateful for the loan of the proton magnatometer by the KARGC.

The standard of individual displays in both sections of the exhibition was very high and the professional- appearance of the show was aided considerably by display cases loaned by Maidstone Museum and display boards from the Medway Art College. Rope barrier stands were made and are available for loan to any interested society. Over 150 copies of the KARGC Review were sold and many favourable comments were received.

A surprising, but not unexpected, fact to emerge was that the public was particularly interested in smaller finds from everyday use, such as clay pipes, old beer and mineral bottles, Roman colanders and other items which could easily be recognised and are similar to those in use today. In fact the exhibition was designed with the public in mind rather than for archaeologists and numismatists.

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