Horse head armour display made by Girlguiding District Haltwhistle

Art Project: Guide us into battle at the Roman Army Museum

In 2016 and 2017 nine museums and archaeological sites took part in Hadrian's Cavalry art project. Lead artist Karen MacDougall kept a diary during the process. Here are her thoughts about the project at the Roman Army Museum at Vindolanda involving Girl Guides, Brownies and Rainbows.

Guide us into battle - Roman Army Museum at Vindolanda

"Barbara Birley, curator of collections at the Vindolanda Trust, was keen to encourage girls to visit the military museum. Traditionally military museums attract a more male visitor profile. This evolved into a whole day museum experience for the Girlguiding Haltwhistle District of 50 girls aged 5 - 16, along with leaders and helpers.

The group challenged gender stereotypes by being engaged and inspired by the Roman Army Museum’s military artefacts. They handled objects, filled in worksheets, collected Roman patterns and memorized some Latin. The girls and young women also learned how to emboss onto metal foil and started their Arts Award journeys by filling in their templates. They even walked to Hadrian’s Wall itself. A very action-packed day!

Creating cavalry in 3D

A few days later I met them in a school hall where I also worked with Rainbows, Brownies and Guides. I encouraged them to use their metal embossing skills to craft their own chamfron (horse head armour) design in metal foil. These were then cut and folded to give a good 3D shape. This produced more than a turma’s (cavalry unit's) worth of chamfrons and a file full of Arts Award portfolios to assess.

Roman expert Tim Padley provided me with a turma plan of one of the typical layouts of cavalry ready for battle. We positioned the chamfrons to mimic this, drilling and pinning each one into the mounting board. The Guides also made phalerae (circular discs) as edging. The whole display, installed beside the life size cavalry soldier and horse, looked great!"

- By artist Karen MacDougall

Karen's haiku reflecting on the project

A silent army

Disciplined, waits for action

Chamfrons shining bright.

More art projects

Take a look at what else was created in Diary of a Hadrian's Cavalry Artist.

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