On Pompeii: The Exhibit

We recently attended the travelling exhibit A Day in Pompeii. Cookware, jewelry, armor, frescos, utensils, statues, mosaics, religious figurines, and more told visitors about life in this modern city of over 20,000. Our short visit to Pompeii (2007) helped us appreciate the exhibit even more. And to think that Pompeii was covered for 17 centuries!

Figuring the museum would prohibit photography, I did not take a camera. Once there, I was people taking pictures, but it was not until I was more than halfway through that I recall having the camera on my phone in my pocket.

The exhibit is at the Cincinnati Museum Center through August 12. (Image from the Cincinnati Museum Center)


Karl Briullov’s Last Day of Pompeii (not on display) (Image from Wikipedia)




Statues of garden statues of Hermes in front of outdoor frescos


Floor Mosaic


Replicas of Body Casts


Animations: Below are two segments of a computer animation of that last day. Although the full version is 3-4 minutes long, these two segments will stimulate your thought. Be patient with the second because the end is profound.


71 thoughts on “On Pompeii: The Exhibit

  1. Those videos are friggin’ amazing :-) I have a great fascination with Pompeii, as I’m sure many people do. I got spend a day there myself…back in 2001. It was really an amazing, sureal experience wondering through all the town’s streets and just taking it all in.

    Thanks for this post Frank!

    • Mashed,
      “Sureal” is a great word to describe the experience … both in person and at the exhibit. The room with the casts also had real skull and bones from Herculaneum … sureal, eerie, etc … Meanwhile, the animation was awesome. Wish I could find the entire clip, but this is the next best thing. Glad you liked them and thanks for visiting and sharing your experiences.

    • Beaufort,
      Welcome first-time commenter. Glad you enjoyed this. You will enjoy Italy. I like my friend’s description – “Italy is one long museum.” – which also tells you that you will want to return! Our stop in Pompeii was short, yet powerful … and eerie and haunting are good descriptors. BTW – I may be posting something about our 2007 trip there Wed night. Thanks for stopping by and hope you return.

    • Leslee,
      Although I’m sure there are commonalities, this is a different exhibit with US stops in New York City, Boston, Cincinnati, and Denver. Nonetheless, if you were moved, the Birmingham exhibit had great items to display. Thanks for commenting and sharing.

  2. Hi,
    Fantastic photos, Pompeii was a very rich culture, such beautiful works in some of the buildings that was left (as per friends photos from a visit there) the murals or fresco’s was on walls inside some homes as well. It was certainly a tragedy how this was all totally wiped out, and the bodies frozen in time a reminder of how quick it all happened.

    What a great find as well regarding the videos, thank you for finding these, very interesting to watch. :)

    • Mags,
      Being there in person helped add meaning to the exhibit, and as your friend’s pictures show, much beauty survived. Not only totally wiped out, but lay undiscovered for about 1650 years! Glad you enjoyed the videos. The ending to the second video is the oh-my-gosh moment I didn’t realize. Thanks for visiting.

  3. My father when he traveled to Italy he visited also Pompeii. He was impressed so much, life stopped suddenly as how it was in that day… When I read your words, I remembered once again his expressions. Should be amazing and interesting to visit this museum, I wished to do this too. Thank you dear Frank, it was so nice as always to read and to watch. With my love, nia

  4. That looks like a fascinating exhibit, about an equally fascinating time and place. I like to think of Pompeii as an enduring icon that we never know when our time will come, and so we should always be ready. Not even today’s modern technologies could have prevented that catastrophe.

    • Twixt,
      Well said about modern technologies and catastrophes. We may be able to detect some of them in advance, but that doesn’t mean stopping them. Interestingly, that thought links into what I hope to post Thursday. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  5. Nature is quite awesome…in a very real sense of the word. Despite the obvious human tragedy, one can’t help but be amazed by the power and beauty of it.

    Thanks for sharing this Frank!

  6. The monstrous tragedy of that event has come home to me in three separate waves. The first was when I heard that it had happened as a boy. The second was when I first saw images of those body casts. And now with the advent of the incredible simulation technology we have today. And the videos you’ve included here are among the finest examples of that I’ve seen. Thanks Frank!

    I know this is a little off topic, but I’ve been trying for years to find a way to explain to people what I mean when I say “the bottom just fell out” with my depression. That first video is the best visual example of how that feels that I’ve ever come across. I’d love to use it for that purpose, but I’m afraid it might seem in bad taste. What do you think?

    • I-Mak,
      Thanks for sharing your interesting reflection on Pompeii. In terms of the videos, I wish I could have found the entire video. Oh well, at least the sections were better than nothing at all.

      To answer your last question, No, it would not be in bad taste as long as you explained its use and how/why it best explains your about with depression. With that in mind, I’m confident you will find the right words to use with it.

      Thanks for visiting and sharing.

  7. I have always wanted to go to Pompeii, but so far my feet haven’t taken me there – yet. So I enjoyed this little peace about the exhibition immensely. Thanks for thinking about your cell phone and thanks for sharing.

    • Otto,
      With all your travels, I find it interesting that Pompeii is a place who have wanted to visit and haven’t been. Keep the desire and you will get there. I only had a few hours in Pompeii itself, so I would have seen more time with more time. Friends of ours also endorse visiting nearby Herculaneum. Meanwhile, I’m glad I thought of my cell too because a bit late is better than never. Thanks for commenting.

    • Rumpy,
      First of all, welcome first-time commenter! The entire animation was 3-4 minutes and very well done … and appropriately, near the end of the exhibit. The US Tour only has two more stops: Here in Cincinnati through mid-Aug and Denver (mid-Sept into January 2013). Thanks again for visiting and commenting.

    • Kay,
      It was stunning, and amazing preservation! But I have bummer news for you – the exhibit was at the Discovery Museum (Times Square NYC) 03/04/11 – 09/05/11. Now the good news. Keep you eyes open for future exhibits about Pompeii because based on comments I’ve seen here, it seems variations on a theme stay on the circuit! Thanks for commenting.

  8. The body castings are what has always fascinated, and to a degree horrified, me. The artifacts and such are just items, but the castings let you see people as they were when they died. A bit spooky, but fascinating nonetheless.

    • John,
      Although those were replicas, fascinating, horrifying, & spooky are very good descriptions to that part of the exhibit … and there were more in the room + the skulls and bones from Herculaneum. Simply eerie. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Pingback: A Coaster Ride To The Dark Side! | I Want Ice Water

  10. Excellent computer animation of Pompeii’s final day, Frank. The pictures of the body casts still have a chilling affect on me. When my husband and I were there, we were told by our guide that the sea shore extended itself by two miles due to the ash, and that Pompeii’s destruction could be seen miles away. Weren’t you amazed at how far Mt. Vesuvius is compared to where Pompeii once stood? Wow! Great pictures.

  11. I spent a day in Pompeii many years ago, a windy day in September with ash dust that flew into the eyes and made everyone cough. It was hauntingly beautiful and I got many compelling photos. These videos showing the ash fall were un-nerving, to say the least! Thanks for sharing this, Frank.

    • Lynn,
      Being there on a day with noticeable ash in the eye is eerie in itself. In terms of the video, in the exhibit, it was shown toward the end … after seeing the body casts – so “un-nerving” is a good word choice. Thanks for visiting.

  12. What an amazing exhibit! It did not disappoint, that’s certain. Pompeii has always seemed less a city and more of an “event” in history, and it has never faded from our imaginations. You have done a wonderful job of presenting the exhibit well. I don’t know that I’ll be able to make it to Denver, and I’m disappointed it won’t be in Los Angeles, but maybe there will yet be an opportunity to get closer! I am sure I would be fascinated! Debra

  13. I too have always been fascinated by Pompeii and was very frustrated to not be able to get there two years ago when we were in Italy.

    I agree with one of the above comments that the bodies have always fascinated yet horrified me lying in the fetal position like that….

    I read somewhere that people were warned to get out, that it was dangerous to be there, but many of those who died had gone back to get a few things.

    Debra even if the above exhibition isn’t coming here we have a museum in LA – the Getty Villa – which is a reproduction of one of the Villas at Herculaneum. And I overheard someone talking at the museum where I work that there’s going to be a Pompeii exhibition there (I think in the fall). I’ll keep you posted if I hear more.

    • Rosie,
      Let’s face it … when one is in Italy, there simply is so much to see and do. Maybe next time. Meanwhile, thanks for giving Debra the heads up about the Getty and I will guide her to your comment. Thanks for sharing and for commenting.

  14. Those exhibits are stunning. The jewelry looks really sophisticated. That second animation is too dreadful to contemplate. Those inhabitants didn’t stand a chance. ;(

    • Paradise,
      It was a wonderful exhibit. Yes, the jewelry was sophisticated, then again, (as you know) so was Pompeian life. Yes…. that video does show no chance. The video was, and fittingly so, at the end of the exhibit. Thanks for stopping over to see this past post.

  15. I am from Cincinnati and we caught this on the very last day of an extended run. So glad myself, grandma and my 2 children could make it. My 11 year old was fascinated with the everyday wares that were shown. My 7 year old was bored UNTIL we go to the video…Let me tell you what – that video cemented it for me! No need to see people running (or trying to run) in terror, no need to see burning bodies – the view of the town and the sounds and sights of the volcano ravaging it was enough to set my teeth on edge. My mother had tears in her eyes when we went through the body casts. Sobering, to say the least. Thank you for this site…I will remember the video always – and to see it again here was fantastic. My husband had to work the day we went but he will be thankful to see this. Thank you!

    • Emma,
      Welcome first-time visitor. Glad you enjoyed this post, plus thanks for your feedback regarding the exhibit – which was certainly wonderful. Hope you visit my little corner of the world again in the future – thanks for commenting.

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