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Storms, War and Shipwrecks

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Have you been to see The Ashmolean’s new exhibition yet? Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Treasures from the Sicilian Seas launched a few weeks back with a strong nod to families over the summer – those long days when wild-eyed parents are trying to do something with their kids that doesn’t involve icecream or soft play.

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I go to most of the Ashmolean exhibitions, some of which can be quite grown-up and esoteric. This one, I’d say, is a real crowd-pleaser, interesting for adults, hands-on for kids, in depth enough to be worth the entrance fee (£11 adults, £5.50 children 12-17 years) but a very doable for children, with four rooms of artefacts brought up from the bottom of the sea around the Southern Italian island.

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The premise of the exhibition is the political, geographical and cultural importance of Sicily, which for 2500 years happened to be the place where great ancient civilizations – the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Normans – met and fought. The 200-strong exhibition focuses on objects rescued from the bottom of the sea over the last Sixty years, from chance finds to excavated shipwrecks including pieces from an incredible ‘flat pack’ church, prefabricated marble elements of basilica that sank en route to mainland Italy and bronze battering rams once mounted on the prows of Roman warships.

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Kids are able to touch stones, guess aromas, and perhaps best of all, watch a historically accurate video developed by professional gamers that shows the naval battle fought between the Romans and the Carthaginians on 10 March 241 BC.

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I always find the Ashmolean a brilliant experience, new exhibition or not – I’ll often just dip in for half an hour while I’m in Oxford, choose a floor, and then head up for a quick coffee to the rooftop dining rooms. But Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Treasures from the Sicilian Seas will also be one of those shows that works for the whole family, so if you can’t make it in before the school holidays, put it on your A-list to tick off over August.

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The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Treasures from the Sicilian Sea runs until 25 Sept 2016. ashmolean.org

 

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