Roman exhibition is a huge coup for Norwich

Roman Empire - Power and People exhibition being mounted at Norwich castle museum. Photo: Bill Smith

Roman Empire - Power and People exhibition being mounted at Norwich castle museum. Photo: Bill Smith

The largest ever UK exhibition of Roman artefacts on loan from the British Museum which is to open at Norwich's Castle Museum this weekend has been hailed as a major shot in the arm for the city by business and community leaders.

Roman Empire: Power & People brings together more than 160 stunning pieces from the British Museum to explore the story of one of the most powerful empires the world has ever seen.

The Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery is only one of six regional museums hosting the exhibition, which opens on Saturday <feb 1> and runs until April 27, and which has been seen as something of a coup for the city.

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) said: 'I think from an economic point of view its really great that we're seen in that way - being the cultural and heritage city we are - that we're seen as one of the go-to places for national exhibitions.'

Mr Gurney said the fact the exhibition was coming to Norwich was an indication of the kind of regard the city was held in and will certainly provide a boost while it was here.

He said: 'It will bring more visitors to the city and will help boost the profile of the city on a national and international level. From a purely economic point of view the more people and profile Norwich gets the better our standing is.'

Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, said Norwich might have missed out to Derry/Londonderry on the title of UK City of Culture 2013, but events like this showed just how highly regarded it was.

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She said: 'I think we might not have got the title City of Culture but everyone knows that Norwich majors in cultural activities. We've got lots and lots of things going on and I think Norwich is somewhere people are coming to appreciate. It's a very fine city and people are beginning to understand that if they bring events such as this they will be appreciated to the full.

'It's really great that the castle museum is able to host this amazing collection and I congratulate the Norfolk Museum Service for managing to attract the exhibition. It's a coup for Norwich.'

Highlights of the exhibition, that explores the wealth, power and organisation of the Empire, and how the Romans viewed their provinces and other peoples, include a sculpture from the villas of the Emperors Tiberius and Hadrian, coins from the famous Hoxne treasure, beautiful jewellery and near-perfectly preserved children's clothing from Roman Egypt.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to see fascinating religious, military and personal objects that offer an insight into the lives of people across the Empire, from northern Britain to Egypt and the Middle East.

Fascinating artefacts from the castle's own collections will also be on show including some important religious objects from Great Walsingham, and magnificent glass and pewter vessels from Hockwold.

Mike Loveday, chief Executive of Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART), said: 'I think it's fantastic news. All credit to the people at the castle museum for landing it.'

He added: 'We've already got a very good relationship with iconic museums like the British Museum so to have a big exhibition like this I don't think it should be surprising because Norwich should be one of the places that gets these kind of exhibitions.'

Dr John Davies, chief curator at Norfolk Museums' Service, said: 'The Roman Empire retains a continued fascination and relevance to us today.

'Its legacy is everywhere to be seen in the world around us in our laws, politics, art and architecture. This important exhibition is a very rare opportunity to see together a range of high quality objects drawn from right across the Roman Empire. It provokes us to consider why the Empire was so successful; uniting people from a variety of cultures in a unique way. The staging of this show in Norwich also reinforces the close working relationship we have with the British Museum.'

Margaret Wilkinson, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for community services, including museums, said: 'The fact that we are able to borrow such significant treasures from the British Museum is a real coup for Norfolk, and testament to the expertise and excellence of our museums' service and staff.'

Alongside the exhibition, visitors will have the opportunity to see examples of Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service's own Roman collections, including a rare collection of late Roman glass and pewter vessels and important collections from Romano-British temple sites in Norfolk.

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