Wooden Underworld Gallery at Vindolanda

Opening March 30th

Exceptional wooden artefacts from Vindolanda’s wooden pre-Hadrianic forts go on display.

The Vindolanda Trust, with the support of a £1.3m National Lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), has secured the future of its internationally significant collection of wooden Roman artefacts and enabled the public to see them for the first time together in a purpose-built gallery.

Best known as the discovery place of Britain’s oldest surviving handwritten documents, Vindolanda’s oxygen-free archaeological make-up has resulted in the preservation of organic materials which usually doesn’t survive the test of time.

As well as examples of leather, textiles and flora, 1,463 wooden objects have been excavated at the site – from water pipes, axles and even a toilet seat to small objects such as combs, boxes and kitchen utensils. Alongside the ancient Roman fort, the collection tells the fascinating everyday human story of those who lived and worked on the Northern Frontier nearly 2,000 years ago.

Just 10 months after the initial ground work started on site the ‘Unlocking Vindolanda’s Wooden Underworld’ project is now complete and opens to the public on 30th March 2018. The new gallery has special display cases which not only allow temperature and humidity to be kept at safe levels but are also large enough to accommodate some of the current and future giant wooden objects.

Visitors can also hear the incredible survival story of the collection – from the science behind how they lasted two millennia to their conservation and the research that is uncovering their origins.

Patricia Birley, Chair of the Vindolanda Trust’s Development and Impact Committee, said: “We are thrilled to be able to share this unique collection with the public and we are grateful of the support of National Lottery Players who have enabled us to create such a wonderful extension to our museum at Vindolanda.”

In addition to the gallery a new activity centre has also been created which allows more people to engage with the collection through a range of activities for all ages. Easter weekend starts the activity programme with a closer look at Roman cooking and Roman food specialist John Crouch will be demonstrating how wood was used in the Roman kitchen.

Ivor Crowther, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) North East, said: “This is a rare and incredible collection offering a fascinating insight into everyday Roman life and we’re delighted that National Lottery money has brought it out of storage and on display for everyone to enjoy. Congratulations to the brilliant project team and volunteers!”

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund will officially open the new exhibition on 17th April 2018..