On Saturday 14 November visitors to Exeter Library had the chance to visit IscaPark, a simulated theme park inspired by Exeter in Roman times. Part of the Being Human festival, the one day event offered hands-on activities, screenings, and installations corresponding to different sections of a theme park.
Attractions included a ride on the roller coaster “Colosseum Wagon Race”, a Scavenger Hunt with ducks Lostus and Foundus, and authentic Roman food at the “Table of Deliciae”. The youngest visitors particularly enjoyed hooking the Roman ducks at the “Roman Duck Hunt”, digging for artifacts at the archaeological excavation, and learning about early moving pictures at “Epona’s Carousel”.
As they encountered the various elements of IscaPark, member of the public were invited to use their imagination and engage in role-playing, taking on the personas of typical theme park visitors. Visitors had a lot of fun, one of them even claimed that this “was the best day he ever had at the library!”.
Anka Djordjevic, Public Engagement Manager, who led on the University of Exeter’s participation in the Being Human 2015 festival commented, “It was great to see so many library visitors take part in the activities, it was clear that they were enthusiastic having fun. You could see faces of young visitors lit up with joy as they took part in the duck hunt and archaeological dig, while school-age children were eager to ask questions and learn about the Romans. We are very grateful to the library for hosting the event on a busy Saturday. We’ve had about a thousand people take part in various events during the Being Human festival, and we will continue to work with cultural organisations such as Exeter Library to open up our research to the public.”
The Being Human event was organised by Dr. Filippo Carlà, Dr. Florian Freitag, Ariane Schwarz and Sabrina Mittermeier, who are working on a project funded by the German Research Foundation called “ Here You Leave Today – Time and Temporality in Theme Parks”. Sabrina Mittermeier commented, “we encouraged visitors to reflect with us on the relevance today of what they were experiencing, and we were thrilled to be able to show our research in such an engaging way as part of the Being Human Festival 2015!”
The Being Human Festival s the UK’s only national festival of the humanities.
Dr. Filippo Carlà is a lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at University o Exeter whose research interests lie mostly in Roman history, with a particular focus on Late Antiquity. He is also, together with Dr. Florian Freitag, the founder of the above mentioned project on “Here You Leave Today – Time and Temporality in Theme Parks”.
Dr. Florian Freitag is Assistant Professor of American Studies at Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz, whose research interests include regionalism in North America, literatures and cultures of Louisiana, and of course, theme park studies.
Ariane Schwarzis a stage designer and doctoral student in theatre studies at the University of Hildesheim (Germany). As part of the project “Time and Temporality in Theme Parks“, her dissertation discusses a new concept of “involvement” which fits theme parks as well as theatre performances.
Sabrina Mittermeier, M.A., is a research assistant at Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz, as part of the above mentioned theme park project, and is working on her PhD thesis on „Disneyland: The Epitome of Postmodernism? – A History of the Park and its Variations from 1955 to 2016”, based at LMU Munich.