What impressed Bryson about this one, though, is that is was just hidden away in the wood, with a polystyrene cover over the mosaic. His description of the villa is beautiful, and he describes how 'for the first time it dawned on me in a kind of profound way that all those Roman antiquities I had gazed at over the years weren't created with a view to ending up one day in museums'. He talks about how much easier it was to imagine Romans living and walking here, in an ancient wood looking at the mosaic in situ (though the BBC point out that some of the mosaic may be 19th century reconstruction).
After this, Bryson moves from the sublime to the ridiculous as he describes (perfectly) getting lost in Milton Keynes, then I got very cross when he said he didn't want to visit Rugby, Coventry or Birmingham, three places where I have many happy memories from my late teens and early twenties.
It's nice to know that what we study is really appreciated by others, and I can understand Bryson's point about museums. It can be hard to be impressed by dry exhibits behind glass and as I've said many times, I didn't find the ancient world at all interesting in my early teens, despite a number of museum visits (I did love the mummies in the British Museum though). There are some exciting museum projects going on at the moment to try to make the exhibits more exciting though - at the conference in Lampeter last year we heard about one museum that was using Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries books to help the exhibits come alive for children (and I'd tell you which one it was if I could remember... sorry!).
I'm sure that it's not just children who can benefit from this sort of thing - adults are just as likely to enjoy an exhibit more and find it more engaging if it is a bit less clinical, even if not all Roman ruins can be left in the quiet and idyllic situation Bryson found Spoonley Wood in. Hence my love of pop culture - despite all their manifest flaws, Gladiator, I, Claudius, Rome and so on all bring these things to life so much more effectively than a dry label in a museum. Perahps one day I'll open a museum that shows film clips next to the exhibits...