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A visitor with the Herta interactive

Exhibitions can be transformative experiences. Objects and their stories can trigger our imaginations, and interactives designed to stimulate our senses of hearing, touch and smell can transport us.

Rome: City and Empire includes a range of elements designed to lead visitors on a multi-sensory journey through an ancient world.

Sound

A storytelling soundscape guides you through more than 30 Roman objects and their stories.

The Museum has developed free Rome exhibition audio tours for visitors. Read our Rome exhibition audio tours blog post for insights into the development of a tour for kids and another narrated by Richard Fidler.

Students from Trinity Christian School with the pugio (legionary’s dagger)

Touch

Although visitors are used to observing objects in display cases, the number of fingerprints (and nose prints) on their surfaces remind us that the urge to touch is instinctive. Exhibitions with opportunities to handle objects bring visitors closer, and help them better understand their stories. These tactile experiences are also of particular benefit to sight-impaired visitors.

For Rome we have 3D-printed several ancient objects for visitors to handle, including a limestone portrait of a woman inspired by Cleopatra, a legionary’s dagger, a curse tablet, a marble bust of the Emperor Hadrian, and a denarius (silver coin) minted by Julius Caesar.

Smell

Ancient Rome would have been an olfactory sensation, which is a fancy way of saying that it was probably quite smelly. The city of Rome — which at its greatest extent in the Imperial period included more than one million inhabitants — encompassed a diverse aromatic range.

Our ‘Aromas of Rome’ interactive allows visitors to experience the ancient world through the sense of smell, from fragrant perfumes and scented oils to garum — a potent, fermented fish sauce enjoyed across the Empire, which has been dubbed ‘the tomato sauce of Rome’ by Exhibitions Manager Vicki Northey.

Statue of Horus seated. Egypt, 1st–3rd century CE, limestone. © Trustees of the British Museum

Colour

Some of the most innovative research in Roman art and archaeology has reconstructed the painted surfaces of Roman statues, relief sculpture and architecture to show that Ancient Rome was once full of colour. The exhibition includes a small Roman–Egyptian statuette with traces of paint, which have enabled researchers to recreate its original appearance.

While the exhibition design reflects some of the significant colours in Ancient Rome — such as red, purple and gold — a digital colouring interactive enables visitors to creatively imagine a polychrome Roman portrait, reviving the colourful spectrum of the ancient world.

Come visit

Multi-sensory exhibitions such as Rome: City and Empire ensure accessible, inclusive and immersive experiences. We hope that you visit the exhibition to experience Ancient Rome for yourself.

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