A window ... on the imperial Forums

The Markets of Trajan are an archaeological complex of uniqueness in Rome, perhaps even worldwide. They represent an area that has experienced the evolution of the city from the imperial age to today; an area that has been constantly recycled and transformed. The markets once the strategic administrative centre of the Imperial Forums, successively became a noble residence, a military fortress, a prestigious convent and a barracks... a continuous evolution. It has gone through architectural changes and the signs of the various “hands” from these different eras are all still visible. Now, with the completion of recent restorations, we too have crafted out a functions for it and so The Markets of Trajan have begun a new “season” of life.

Incredibly, Rome which is so rich in monuments and museums, has not yet had a centre dedicated to ancient architecture.
Our museum intends to allow you to understand the structural, architectural and decorative aspects of ancient buildings, through three-dimensionally rebuilding them.
Without doubt, it is very suggestive to go through the great archaeological areas of the Roman and Imperial Forums but a real vision of the ancient “city” is difficult to grasp. We wanted to overcome this communicative “gap”; we wanted to give tourists, citizens, people who are passionate about Roman times as well as scholars the possibility of again living a part of the ancient world.
Today, the Trajanic complex is more than ever located at a strategic point of the modern city at a cultural junction that on the one side connects The Capitoline Museum, Palazzo delle Esposizioni and The National Archaeological Museum, and on the other, connects the central archaeological area – Coliseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Imperial Forums. It is an access point to the ancient as well as the modern city. This capacity of urban and cultural dialogue has been valued by important exhibitions such as “The coloured marbles of Imperial Rome” and “Contemporary sculptures by Igor Mitoraj”. We have involved the visitor in a fascinating and intriguing journey through the intricate architecture of the structures internal spaces and the scenic “views” of the city outside. By playing on the excellence of the markets history and the history of the city as a whole, we designed an exhibition dedicated to the Imperial Forum in the Markets of Trajan.

The Markets of Trajan were an integral part of the greatest and most famous of the Forums. They were designed for the administrative needed of the forum and not, as past archaeological literature would have us believe, as a “shopping centre”.

We did not want to “exhibit” the individual fragments of a splendid decorative past (even if they are beautiful in their own right) instead we wanted to physically reconstruct the decorative motifs of which they were part of, addressing when required even very demanding works in terms of material used.

However we did not stop at reconstruction, we believe it is absolutely essential for the visitor to take in the complexity of ancient sites, their systems and their “technology” hence it was also fundamental to a reconstruct real environment to describe the activities that took place in the forums. In other words, it is important to replicate real life in real spaces.

To achieve these objectives, respecting the scientific rigidity of the reconstructions, we have used the best technology available today: from graphics to multimedia. Not only one form of media is used but the most flexible form depending on the communication needs. We address a multitude of audiences and in recent years the complex has “earned” a wide public: organised and independent tours, Italian and foreign university student groups, school children, scholars from various cultural sectors as well as Roman citizens.

The renewed interest in this area is due to several factors: the recent heavy restoration of the structure since the first works in the 1930’s, the enhancement of internal and external spaces, the removal of architectural barriers, the choice of highly inter-related exhibitions, the constant interaction with schools and universities through a range of varied and high quality initiatives (visits, laboratories, internships) and the inclusion of ‘summer’ evening cultural events. All this has triggered a process of loyalty from the public that we want to maintain and increase. Answering the public and therefore giving constant “visibility” over time perhaps more than anything else is what impresses upon the receptive person.

Another important aspect for the promotion of activities not to be overlooked is our efforts to widen the circulation of information at various levels. There is the complexes’ website a vehicle of primary importance for learning and various multimedia products developed from our communication system and network. CDs and DVDs are part of the museum and they sit alongside traditional media (guides in several languages, catalogues etc). Multimedia apparatus (hardware and software), scientific research/graphic processing, the specific development of communications for different target audiences and the business side, such as international conferences and conventions go hand-in-hand with the permanent collection thus increasing cultural exchanges between other countries and within Italy itself.

Lucrezia Ungaro
Responsabile del Museo dei Fori Imperiali