The perks of the Senior Fellow position (Ciprian Dobra, Romania, Senior Fellow 2023)

Written by Ciprian Dobra, Alba Iulia Municipality Counselor and Cultural Objective Curator, Principia Museum (Romania, ITP 2019, Senior Fellow 2023)

As always, the ITP fellows have a 10 day experience at a partner museum around the UK. As a Senior Fellow, both for organisational reasons and for an extended experience, I visited 3 partner museums: Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums in Newcastle, Lincoln Museum and the University of Nottingham Museum.

Newcastle was somehow my choice because it is so close to Hadrian’s Wall and because of my passion for the Roman history. And because no one could be better as a host than Bill Griffiths, the Assistant Director of TWAM, I felt twice as happy to meet him again and to be his guest. He performed his host role magnificently, both in the presentation delivery schedule and the trips that he organised for us. I only managed to be part of one of the trips – Segedunum fort, Arbeia fort and Southshields Museum, and we were lucky enough to be guided around every little detail of these places. The Sunday trip, to other forts, were the prerogative of the other fellows and they described it as wonderful. I am looking forward to return one day and, if possible, to make the Wall Walk, either in full Roman gear or in hiking equipment!

The next destination was Lincoln and I got straight into city life from the station to the museum. It felt so alive and picturesque! I was met by Andrea Martin who was just finishing the learning session with Ali and Mamdouh and she spoke a little more on the subject for me. In a very short time she answered all my questions and provided written and virtual resources for my needs about museum education. From there we went to see an exclusive Roman ruin, the Posterngate, exclusive because you can only get in there by appointment! Then, fun followed: we were given the opportunity to visit Lincoln Castle and Lincoln Cathedral, so we had fun in the Victorian Prison and took stunning pictures from the castle walls and towers. They even have a roaring and smoking dragon in the courtyard. How cool is that?! The cathedral is something else: its size makes anyone feel insignificant while in it. I went all the way to the back and I could not see Ali who remained at the entrance. The building is an amazing feat of construction for the time it was built, and to be honest, for any time whatsoever.

On Saturday we had free time and we chose to see a Roman Gate and the Lincolnshire Museum which I enjoyed very much because it is a vivid image of what Lincoln used to be. After that we went back to the Castle to have lunch on the lawn because there was a food and music festival there. We opted for a pizza and the pizza guy happened to be Romanian and we discovered that we have mutual friends, all whilst listening to good music and enjoying a very sunny day.

On Sunday we left for Nottingham and Andrea offered us a lunch break at Belton House, an amazing National Trust property that made us feel like the British nobility exploring the mansion, reading a book in the reading room or just looking at amazing works of art. The highlight, however, was the ice cream in the end of the tour, the best I’ve had so far, no matter where I’ve travelled, and it was tasty because the milk was coming from a local family farm “who was milking cows since 1953” (I liked that sentence).

Nottingham was my third destination, and our host was the kind and most considerate Clare Pickersgill who went above and beyond to show us as much as she could in such a short time. We saw the University of Nottingham Museum’s current galleries and future plans, the amazing lake nearby, and the art gallery. The trip to their archive department was very informative and the ladies who showed us around made the considerate effort of showing us objects and documents from their collections that were connected to our countries (Turkey, Egypt and Romania).  We were also led around the storage, digitization department, reading room, and computer science department where we explored science-fiction like technologies. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the University of Nottingham learning department is practicing similar activities to the ones I do in my museum, but I liked the fact that they apply it differently by introducing more focused stories.

The final day, the day of our return to London, was a good opportunity to visit Nottingham Castle, whose caves we visited the day before and whose stories were such a new thing for us. This castle was a mythical place in my memory from the very moment I read something about Robin Hood, but it proved to be so much more, with such a great importance in the history of England.