Interest in the Roman fort at Newstead, which is the focus of the exhibition, was inspired by the inquiry generated by the threat to the fort from the proposed Melrose bypass: in 1988 the Trust was formed to promote awareness of the site and £30,000 was raised to create a permanent exhibition.
Visitors to the museum today can see artefacts from the original excavation at the beginning of the last century, including tools used by soldiers to build the fort that look exactly like their modern counterparts. Also on display are the remains of Roman glassmaking, examples of the pottery used by officers for dining, a replica cavalry saddle, replica armour, gaming pieces and much more besides. A blacksmiths workshop and a kitchen let us glimpse life in the fort as it was 2000 years ago. Maps, plans and models seek to inform the visitor about the Romans in southern Scotland. One of the most fascinating items on display is the 228 silver coin hoard from Synton.
The native population is not forgotten and their way of life is explored also, with examples of native pottery and a look at their impressive hill forts in the area.
Each year a loan from the National Museum is arranged to highlight a particular aspect of Roman life, often comprising of objects originally from the fort but now housed in Edinburgh.
The museum acts not only as a display area telling the story of the fort and its people, as well as the native British population. It also acts as a focus for the Trust’s many other activities: school visits, a meeting place for guided walks out to the site and as the venue for the series of spring and autumn lectures.
The museum is open from the beginning of April until the end of October, Monday to Saturday, 10.30 to 4.30 and is entirely volunteer run. Visits outwith these dates can be arranged.