For the first time (ever, I think) we have started taking prospective students away from the Caerleon campus, and begun to explore the surrounding environs. It’s providing us with a wonderful opportunity to showcase the resources that we have on our doorstep. Frankly, with the most complete amphitheatre going in the British Isles and a National Museum close at hand, we would be daft not to make the most of such sites, and so we did.
I must admit to having spent most of the morning praying that the forecast wet weather would hold off, and for the most part, some deity somewhere decided to look kindly on those requests – I’ll take drizzle over a downpour. The amphitheatre was of course swamped by school children, but in a sense that was ideal. We were not in the amphitheatre to just talk about the archaeological significance of the site, we were also here to discuss heritage. What better way to illustrate the ongoing social significance of this site than to have it overrun by enthusiastic school children? It might not have been the quietest of places to discuss a new degree, but who cared, the site was alive and being used – that is the really important thing.
Brief visits into the National Roman Legion Museum and nearby baths offered an audible contrast, where we were among the only people inside the respective sites. Fortuitous timing perhaps, ten minutes either way and we would probably have been drowned out by the very same school party. Still, silence allowed us to discuss some interesting themes, such as the ethics of displaying human remains, and the use of visual projections in the baths, all examples that will come up in sessions on the degree. ‘Situated learning’ we like to call it, and it works very well.
While wandering around a University is all well and good, there is probably only so much that a campus can tell you about a degree programme. By going off site, and into the archaeological source material, we can show off what we do, and of course what we might use in the future given the vast amount of untouched archaeology west of the fortress complex. I don’t know if we won over any future students, but at the very least I think everyone there enjoyed the experience and that, at the very least, should be an important component of any degree. A good start then, and hopefully more to come!
(Special thanks go to Mark and Gareth for helping out on the day - it was not planned, but they really helped, and we forgive Mark for yawning at the worst possible moment!)