The centrepiece exhibitions at the British Museum tend to be the hottest ticket in town. True to form Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum was sold out months before the first patron had even walked through the door. Hence why it took me till August to take a look for myself, but as soon as I walked through the door I got what all the hype was about.
I studied Pompeii at school (first in History and later in Classics), I’ve read the books, I’ve been to the exhibition at Te Papa and hell, I’ve actually been to Pompeii itself. So, I know my shit*. So I wasn’t actually looking for the historical facts, I was more curious about how the British Museum was going to do something different.
Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum was neatly divided into two parts – life and death. Surprise surprise life was my favourite. They had recreated the layout of a typical Roman villa in the exhibition, that way they could display all the preserved food in the dining room and so on. It gave it a completely natural and logical flow as well as bringing all those boring villa layouts I learned in school to life.
Death was a somber affair, going into more details about specific people/assumptions about their situations. Being the magpie that I am, the jewellery section really grabbed my attention. The rings, necklaces and bracelets were grouped based on who they were found next to. It was incredible to be able to see the things that were so important/meaningful/valuable that they were grabbed when the world was turning to hell.
My only gripe was pretty much the same I have at all London exhibitions, the crowds. The amount of people just made me want to speed through and get out of there, but I guess with a popular exhibition there is not really much they can do.
*Just don’t ask me to actually recall any information…I may have confused a lot of it with that Doctor Who episode where the Titans almost take over the world.