Sunday, 20 March 2016

RACed and TRACed? Part 1

Reconstruction of Portus as presented by S. Keay during the key note talk

The Portus trip at the very end of the Roman Archaeology Conference in Rome went more or less pear-shaped from my part, but otherwise I enjoyed Rome in March as one could be expected to. I was suggested in beforehand that a conference this big may be irritating and tiresome, but even if I missed some talks due to people dropping out and the schedules being tinkered at the spot, the general feeling was as sunny as the weather outside on most days. The real problem, and really down to myself, was being at Sapienza University at time early in the morning. This in turn turned me into an old lady by Friday evening, so instead of any Mostra opening or TRAC party, I and my colleague Eeva-Maria Viitanen who had her talk last in the conference on Saturday as one of the handful delegates, we headed for a quiet dinner near Doria Pamphilia.

Well deserved thanks to Chiara Maria Marchetti

Generally, the conference was well-organised and the things that went slightly awry were nothing in comparison with one truly chaotic conference I have attended in the past. All the rooms had functioning laptops and projectors, there were plenty of nice students to help us and the conference secretary Chiara Maria Marchetti was an ever-present fixture everywhere. Things got sorted promptly without delay. The poster session advice however changed along the way and there could have been signs on the walls to guide the delegates to the right lecture rooms, not only in the conference booklet. At the beginning I was a bit out of my breath – mainly because I came to Rome after a quick detour to Florence – but the coffee breaks and lunches were served also in the Museum of Classical Archaeology among the casts of the statues, which gave grandeur to the proceedings. It took a couple of hours to get going and by picking up interesting lectures and themes from both the RAC and TRAC I created a versatile programme.

The book stalls among the cast collection

There were even special effects. In the Sensing Rome session the air conditioning in the Odeon was working on overtime and my choice of short-sleeved dress for my presentation day meant that I was quite cold before it was all over. There would have been a possibility to Hoff one session for being an all-male panel, but considering who were present, I decided that it was more important to bring in a female voice by making a relevant question and take part in discussion in Italian; I did get a very good answer. In general, there were plenty of female organisers – as in the Urban Streets session where Eeva-Maria was speaking – and there was a whole session for Sex, Gender and Family (see the session list).

The end is nigh at RAC/TRAC2016

Most importantly, in the opening address the Superintendency in Rome was thanked for our free access to some sites and we were reminded of the challenging times for heritage management in Italy. We were also reminded of the struggle many of our colleagues are having and there was a wish that the loss of colleagues that stood for their heritage was not for vain. This was nice to hear, especially since my colleague was just telling in social media the story of a female colleague that had to leave everything behind and flee for her safety.

The delightfully cheap conference dinner was an enjoyable treat, spent discussing with Peter Attema from Groningen and Simon Malmberg from Bergen. It turned out that the latter was very familiar with my research, as he himself suggested. He had been in the panel that had evaluated the candidates for a Mediterranean lectureship at Oslo and he was suggesting that my research was impressive. He also shared a taxi back to Gianicolo after a nice evening.

My Friday was busy, since I was live tweeting all afternoon, not only presenting in the morning – and we were literally running a chair-it-yourself session. The first speaker was a real star and started promptly on time and finished in a similar manner while giving a good talk on Urban Structure in the Graeco-Roman world. He even loaned me his watch, so I could time my talk. With his help and little assistance from the nice students, I managed to finish on the spot and hand the turn to the Vindolanda talk. As my friend suggested, we could have been pouring our content to the listeners without any regard, but we were very civilised.

I will come back to some of the highlights I heard in the Part 2 of my conference posts. I will also come back to the Archaeological Museum in Florence when I have a slot in my weekly blog.

Rome in March

You know, it was fun. The enjoyment was increased by being able to eat breakfast on the sunny mornings on the terrace looking at Rome at our feet. I am lodging next door to emerita Margareta Steinby who has every now and then commented delightfully the everyday happenings we have faced. Now I just hope for uneventful travel.

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