A visit to the Verulamium Museum

A dinner engagement took me to St Albans this evening.  The road-widening on the M25 caused me to go early; and a look at my own Mithras site revealed that the Verulamium Museum there had some Mithraic items.  I took my mobile phone, paid for parking, then admission, and wandered in.

The museum didn’t place any obstacles in the way of photography, other than very low light levels, which troubled my eyes rather more than my digital camera.

What I was hoping to find was a vase, listed by Vermaseren as CIMRM 828, but with no photograph.    And, to my delight, there it was!  But … with a problem.

The vase was really just fragments.  But it had been restored, quite properly.  Unfortunately the portion that showed Mithras was impossible to see clearly!

The vase looks like this:

This shows Mercury (with the winged feet) and the bow of Hercules to the left.  Mithras is to the right and round the corner:

There were definite stars on his robe, just visible to the naked eye.

I’ve written to the director of archaeology, asking whether a photo might be obtained of the Mithras bit.  It will be interesting to see what the answer is.

But of course the same problem could occur in a hundred museums.  How do we get the items out of the cases and where we can photograph them?  Not that we want to handle these things … but unphotographed means unrecorded means unusable by scholars.

It’s an interesting problem.


2 thoughts on “A visit to the Verulamium Museum

  1. If you can’t put it in a walk-around case, you’re supposed to put a mirror on the back wall of the case, in a position so everybody can look at the mirror image.

    Sigh. Probably either a budget problem, or just a lack of mirrors or suitable cases. That case looks barely big enough for the vase to fit inside, so there’s not much room to edge a mirror inside.

  2. An interesting point. The case is larger than my photos make clear, as they’ve been trimmed. A mirror would be perfectly feasible.

    It’s only a small town museum, and is really very good, when that is taken into consideration.

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