From Marsh to Modern Living 

In September 1997, the complete infrastructure of the Roman frontier(or limes), including a road, a a river and a ship, was discovered in a remote part of the Leidsche Rijn town development. This discovery marked the start of the largest programme of archeological investigation ever carried out in the Netherlands.

The results have thoroughly changed our perception of 3,000 years of human occupation in the centre of the Netherlands. In 2007 the Department of Heritage of the Municipality of Utrecht took the initiative in presenting the archaeological treasures and findings derived from them in a cultural park that brings together various functions and audiences: the concept of Castellum Hoge Woerd was born. This new cultural facility, which combines a museum, a theatre, a city farm and a restaurant, was built on top of a former Roman fort, which will be part of the ‘Frontiers of the Roman Empire’ World Heritage Site in a few years.
On this top archaeological site, a modern interpretation of the fort was reconstructed, using innovative light-construction technologies.
The brief for the museum project was to design a permanent exhibition that showcases the archaeological treasures in the context of their stories. The concept was to place a selection of the thousands of finds in a coherent context, highlighting them in accessible, exciting and understandable ways. The idea was to present the priceless artefacts as well as their stories about the ever changing landscape. The design team have consistently aimed at unique experiences that can only be fully had at the museum itself, by innovative spatial designs and one off interactives, all adapted to the unusual shape of the building.

The exhibition designers were inspired by the shapes of the building. In the case of the submitted project ‘From Marsh to Modern Living' the shape of the exhibit is derived from the Roman fort’s rounded corner. Visitors first follow the timeline and are then 'trapped' in the ‘basket’ and immersed in the looping ‘mindset’ movie.

In addition to the impressive display of the Roman ship Meern 1 with its unique array of furniture, tools, kitchen utensils and personal belongings of the shipper, the exhibition space in the ramparts of the fort also consists of the following elements:

The exhibition starts with the "The island of Archeology" because a basic knowledge about the wonderous world of archeological research o is essential to understand the many stories told as they roam around the Castellum. How does archeology work? Why is it best left in the ground? Archeology is the raison d’être of the Castellum.

Our submission for the Heritage in Motion Award, the exhibit ‘From Marsh to Modern Living’, encapsulates the mindset of the museum and takes the visitor on a trip through the history of the Leidsche Rijn area. The theme cluster “The Changing landscape” highlights the most memorable historical periods of human occupationin this area. It consists of six‘islands’ each of which tells the main developments in the landscape ‘biography’ of that particular period, illustrated by both mundane materials and flashy ‘eyecatcher’ finds.

The visitor can walk over the ramparts of the forts. Every gate tower features a “time window”. These windows show the visitor what the landscape looked like in Roman times. With the help of augmented reality, the Roman past is projected over the present as the visitor touches one of the information points in the screen. Visitors are able to move the screen like a periscope in order to explore the complete landscape, both Roman and present.