Pompeii: The Exhibition

Thanks to a very sweet friend I was able to see Pompeii: The Exhibition at the California Science Center. Now I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about Pompeii and most of what I know came from TV and movies, so most of it is probably wrong. There is a brief summary of what happened in Pompeii here if, like me, you need to refresh your memory. (Or just verify what is fact and what is “Hollywood.”) In the grand tradition of museum exhibits, the room was not well-lit and almost everything was behind a reflective surface so please don’t judge the photos too harshly.

At first some of the artifacts seemed almost… underwhelming until I realized why. Without knowing I was doing it, I was expecting things that looked really old. Like, really, really old. But the items on display have been so well-preserved that it’s almost hard to believe they are as old as they are. Once I figured out that my expectations were flawed each and every piece overwhelmed me for how perfect it looked.

Just a small warning, there was some erotic art on display and a few pictures of it below. I’m pretty sure there are five of you who read this website and I know you all by name and how old you are so it’s nothing inappropriate for you, but if I’m wrong and human bodies or expressions of sexuality offend you, well… consider this your warning.

The casts of the victims were more emotional than I was expecting. (I’m not sure what I was expecting to be honest.) If you don’t know anything about them there is a good explanation here of what they are and how they are made.

I was describing them to a friend later over the phone and her reaction was “how creepy!” It was creepy on one level, yes. But it was also really personal in a way I wasn’t prepared for, and almost heart-warming in a strange way. 25,000 people dead heartwarming, you say?! Yeah, I know it sounds really bad/weird. When I was standing in the room with the casts I just kept thinking that everyone who died there probably died along with everyone they’d ever known. We were told earlier in the exhibit was that within a few years of the loss of Pompeii no one remembered where it had been. These people were basically erased, completely erased. It may have taken 2,000 years but now I was standing in front someone, looking at his face in surprisingly good detail. I may not know what his name was or if he were kind, if the kid liked sports or music better, if the pregnant woman was hoping for a boy or girl, but in that moment I was seeing them and grieving them and by extension all 25,000 victims. I think every human being deserves to be mourned no matter who they are at least for a moment. It took a really long time but these people are not erased anymore. So yes, it was creepy and sad and felt good all at once.

And of course we had to visit the shuttle while we were there. (Because, ya know, I don’t have enough photos of Endeavour here and here, to say nothing of the hundreds I have that aren’t on this site!)

6 thoughts on “Pompeii: The Exhibition

    1. Jennifer Kaplan Post author

      It took about an hour I think, maybe a little less… It was a timed entry so not too many people could enter at the same time. So yes, it was sort of crowded but not enough that you couldn’t see everything. I hope you go and enjoy it! 🙂

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  1. Stef

    So These are actual artifacts from Pompeji that are travelling currently? That’s pretty cool in a morbid way. I just talked to my mom about it the other day, that I have to go there sometime.

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  2. Crystal

    I want to take Hunter. I kind of lost my breath when I saw the price of the tickets. But maybe I’ll swing it in a couple of weeks. Thanks for sharing!

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