The new Museum of the Imperial Fori in Trajan’s Market in Rome is designed to explain the history and structures of the sequence of fori alongside the Capitoline Hill. Trajan’s Market is remarkable in the survival of several stories of lock up shops, terraces and streets above the forum within which Trajan’s Column stands.
In adapting parts of the building to a ‘museum’ role there have been some clever curatorial decisions. The main hall opening of Via IV Novembre has been given a plate glass front and treated like a contemporary up-market shop. The shop units are used a individual display spaces to set out aspects of the story of the Roman fori but the current exhibition ‘L’Eleganza del Cibo – Tales of Food and Fashion’ interacts with that and uses the space as if it were a modern shopping mall. It works very well. Versace et al sit elegantly amongst Trajanic marble and weathered doorways. Yeongju Sung’s vegetable garments are extraordinary. Rather than being a formal museum space and ‘ancient site’ it is animated in a very accessible way http://www.leleganzadelcibo.com.
Below, in medieval cistern towards the back of the building is an unexpected bonus for archaeologists and ceramiphiles. If you work with Roman pottery for more than a short time you come across Dragendorff and Dressel classifications for Roman pottery forms. Both were German scholars who recognised the very structured patterns of Roman pottery over time and recognised that these could be used for dating and to study trade. Hans Dragendorff concentrated on Samian wares and Heinrich Dressel on amphorae.
Dressel recognised that by combining he study of the shapes of amphorae, the many stamps and inscriptions on them and the dated contexts from which ch then came, that a systematic catalogue could be built. The exhibition includes a film of an actor playing Dressel being inspired and examples of his illustrations. The medieval cisterns allow the key exhibits – a fantastic collection of amphorae of many varieties – to be presented as if in a great wine cellar.