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20 February 2019

Sirmium 2018: Past and Future

The Glac Project Education Program, Sremska Mitrovica, 2-6 July 2018

During the week of 2-6 July 2018, the first Glac Project Education Program was held under the name ‘Sirmium: Past and Future.’ The program involved 20 students from the Sremska Mitrovica Grammar School (‘Gimnazija’), who had been selected by the Gimnazija, aged 15-17.

The original inspiration for the program was provided during the 2017 season by Stefan Pop-Lazić, who suggested that Serbian students would benefit from the inductive and problem-based learning approach that is a feature of Australian education. It also became apparent during a visit to the Gimnazija in December 2017 that most students were keen to broaden their knowledge about the Roman history of their town. When we grow up surrounded by traces of the visible past, we tend to take them for granted and overlook how interesting they are. Many of the students seemed surprised that people from as far away as Australia would be fascinated by their town, and it was clear that an exciting opportunity existed to develop an educational program that encouraged them to view their town from the perspective of outsiders. The program was made possible through the generous support of members of the Sydney Serbian diaspora and the City of Sremska Mitrovica.

The 2018 Education Program was specifically intended to be a pilot program to gauge the level of interest among young people in SM for educational opportunities connected with Glac, to gain a sense of what knowledge they already have about the heritage of Roman Sirmium, and to see how they responded to practical and problem-based learning. It was intended to be highly practical, providing opportunities to study ancient materials and learn something of specialised disciplines such as numismatics and epigraphy, and it was also intended to be transformative. That is, the Education Program aimed to inspire students to feel some sense of connection with and ownership over the Glac Project, and to see it as a long-term opportunity that they could be a part of. The program involved a number of presenters and facilitators from different institutions, and Zorana Kataranovski and Teodora Vuletić assisted throughout the week to help everything run smoothly.

Most workshops were run in English, and the opportunity to experience a week of activities in English was a major reason why many students took part in the program. The standard of English among the students was very high, and they were consistently prepared to ask questions and make presentations. The closing presentation was held in the presence of the Serbian Minister of Culture and Information, the Australian Ambassador, the Mayor of Sremska Mitrovica and the Museum of Srem director.

Glac Education Program 2018 Diary:

The activities of the week may be briefly summarised as follows:

Monday 2/7

The week began with discussion facilitated by Alan Dearn, Natalija Ćosić from the Central Institute of Conservation, Belgrade, and the director of Sremska Mitrovica Tourist Office, Svetlana Sabo about what the students already know of the heritage of their town. The students were divided into groups (which they worked in throughout the week) and prepared maps of SM, highlighting places of interest to include in a tour to visitors. Following lunch, each group was provided with an Australian visitor, including the Second Secretary from the Australian Embassy, Mr Maris Tebecis, who travelled from Belgrade for the afternoon and Glac team members Jelena Šarović and Byron Waldron. Each group then ran a tour of SM for ‘their’ Australian, after which the groups debriefed together back at the Museum.

Tuesday 3/7

Tuesday was spent on site at Glac. Stefan Pop-Lazić and Richard Miles introduced the students to the site, after which they were given an introduction to stratigraphy and archaeological tools by Candace Richards. The students were then divided up between different trenches and worked with members of the team. BBQ lunch was provided in the Mitrosrem hall, after which Andrew Yip gave them an introduction to the photogrammetry and augmented reality work he is doing at Glac. They then returned for more hands-on work at the site, with three of the students being interviewed during the afternoon by visiting media.

Wednesday 4/7

The focus of Wednesday was pottery as a source of archaeological evidence, and the day was held in the lapidarium of the Museum of Srem. Jasmina Davidović taught the students about Roman pottery, and Zvezdana Štimac took them on a tour of the Museum. The great Australian delicacy of Tim-Tams were provided for morning tea, after which the students worked on cleaning pottery, and enjoyed the practical task.

Following lunch, we were fortunate to be joined by Lazar Konstantinović, who does fascinating work recreating ancient Roman technologies. Lazar ran an engaging practical workshop on the production of terra sigillata.

Thursday 5/7

The focus of the day was on numismatics and epigraphy. Miroslav Jesretić provided access to some coins from the Museum collection, which were used to run a workshop about how late Roman emperors – and the Tetrarchs in particular – sought to portray the nature of their authority and collegiality.

Following this, the students were given a brief introduction to the epigraphy in the lapidarium, with explanations of some of the votive and funerary formulae found on most of the inscriptions. The students spent the rest of the morning session engaged in an epigraphic ‘treasure hunt’, that required them to seek out information such as the names of legions that had a presence in Sirmium, evidence of damnatio memoriae and so on. One activity required them to identify how many different types of animals are depicted on the Museum inscriptions.

Following lunch, Lazar Konstantinović ran a practical workshop on coin production, in the course of which he struck a coin with the help of several students.

Friday 6/7

Friday morning was spent at the Imperial Palace, with the students allowed access to the floor of the display. Svetlana Gojković ran a session on mosaics, also helping the students to visualise some of the layout and original appearance of the different stages of construction at the very confusing site. On-site we also discussed Ammianus Marcellinus and read the account of Julian seizing Sirmium in AD 360 as a way to encourage the development of historical imagination about the imperial palace and other sites.

The closing workshop of the 2018 Education Program, held at the Museum of Srem, was visited by the Minister of Culture and Information, Vladan Vukosavljević, Australian Ambassador, H.E. Mrs Julia Feeney, Mayor of Sremska Mitrovica, Vladimir Sanader, the Museum of Srem director, Saša Bugadžija and Gimnazija teachers. Each group of students presented to the visiting dignitaries, explaining what they had done during the week, why SM is important, how the Glac Project contributes to the significance of SM and how all this has implications for their futures.

The education program concluded with ice creams at Stari Sport.

Student feedback on the Education Program was extremely positive. On Friday 6/7 Natalija Ćosić facilitated a session with the students in which they were invited to provide feedback on their experience of the Education Program. All considered it to be worthwhile and most wished that it had lasted longer, with all of them wishing they had been able to spend more time on site. The students identified the open, problem-based approach to learning as the most enjoyable aspect of the week. In particular, activities such as the inscription ‘treasure hunt’ were referred to as being very unlike their usual modes of instruction.

The 2018 Education Program was a great success and indicates that there is enormous unexplored potential for involving young people in SM with the heritage of their town in general and the Glac Project in particular. It was a great pleasure to work with the students, who impressed all those involved in the program with their enthusiasm, creative thinking and willingness to make the most of their involvement. The program will be developed further in 2019, and it is hoped that students from 2018 – the Glac Družina – will play a role in running future programs.

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Julian in Sirmium

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