For years, I have wanted to visit Pompeii. The idea of being able to wander around the excavated city and see all of the things that have been preserved by the ash is an incredible draw for me. I haven’t made it to Italy yet, but did have an opportunity to go see the Pompeii exhibit at the Pacific Science Center this spring.
Like many of the special exhibits there, it was timed entry, but it wasn’t hugely busy the day we were there. We got there a bit ahead of our time, and were allowed to go in early.
The exhibit was set up with each exhibit room presenting artifacts from a room in the Pompeiian home. For example, one room had dining room artifacts, one had bedroom items, kitchen, etc. They also had sections of exhibit rooms dedicated to occupations or sections of society – theater, engineering, and even brothels!
The artifacts were beautiful; it is amazing to think that these pieces of ceramics, jewelry and glass had been buried under layers of ash for almost 2,000 years. They are remarkably intact, given what these pieces of history have endured.
It was also interesting to get a glimpse of how people lived during the period. The exhibit mostly focused on the lives of the wealthy, because wealthy people typically have more stuff. More stuff = more stuff to be preserved… The exception was the room that showed several murals that were on the walls in the brothels.
The exhibit also had several copies of body casts on display, after a brief interactive experience designed to let us experience what it might have been like to be caught in the eruption. It was so hot and fast that victim’s bodies disintegrated and left a space in the hardening ash. Plaster was poured into these gaps and it captured a likeness of the victim in the moment they died. It was chilling to see how suddenly the victims died – lying down, sitting up, protecting children, etc. – it was a poignant reminder of the tragedy.
The exhibit was well done and we appreciated our time there – the artifacts were so neat to see! And the body casts were extremely powerful to see. A humbling reminder of the power of the natural world. And someday – I’ll get to the actual city!