Saturday, May 23, 2015

Pompeii and the Pooped Out Premier Exhibitions Formula

Left: Statue Greeting You Upon Arrival; Center: Bronze Statue Originally Silver Plated; Right: Fresco with Dionysus Enthroned (Painted Plaster, 50-70 A.D., House of Naviglio, Pompeii)
Statue Greeting You Upon ArrivalBronze Statue Originally Silver PlatedFresco with Dionysus Enthroned (Painted Plaster, 50-70 A.D., House of Naviglio, Pompeii)
I'm starting to detect a trend in the exhibitions at Pacific Science Center: light on artifacts and curation and high on "wow" factors and recreations. The Pompeii Exhibition follows this formula. Yes, the ticket price is high for what you get. Yes, some who know something or nothing about Pompeii will enjoy it. But, ultimately the exhibition leaves you unfulfilled.

First, like I also mentioned for the King Tut exhibit, the music was too loud, schlocky, and repetitive.

Second, the audio guide was pretty bad. If we've shelled out the extra money for it and we are standing in a crowded room jockeying with people to see the exhibits, the audio guide better lift my mood by educating and titillating me. It didn't.

Third, the wow factor is a movie at the end of the exhibition that simulates - with sound, vibration, and stage smoke - the day Pompeii got buried in 79 A.D. Nice, but not great.

Finally, the problem is not so much the Pacific Science Center, but the creator of the show, Premier Exhibitions. This is the company that produces the Bodies Exhibition. (Are you sick of seeing that exhibition in every city you visit?) I'm guessing they provide these "package" exhibitions and different cities or institutions buy them.

If you go to Premier Exhibitions site for Pompeii and try to find out information about something you saw at the exhibition, there is just a few pretty pictures and a simplistic statement about the exhibition. There is no solid information or even an inventory of the what is displayed. (If it was there, I did not see it.) It's clear: the exhibition is meant to entertain, not educate. With that goal in mind, why waste the time putting that information together?

Similarly, you can't find anything on the Pacific Science Center's site about what artifacts were shown. That's not good science in my book.

Did I like anything about this exhibit? Yes, there were some interesting facts about foods, amphorae shapes to store food, and in particular the fermented fish sauce, garum.  (The shape of the amphorae indicated their contents, and the bottom of one amphora fit into the top of another.) And, the statues and artifacts they had were interesting, just too few to get a sense of anything.

Left: Amphorae for Garum (terracotta, 1st century A.D., Pompeii); Center: Mosaic of Garum Amphora (white limestone and black slate, 1st century A.D., House of Aulus Umbricius Scaurus, Pompeii); Right: Cast of a Youth, House of Cryptoporticus, Pompeii
Amphorae for Garum (terracotta, 1st century A.D., Pompeii) Mosaic of Garum Amphora (white limestone and black slate, 1st century A.D>, House of Aulus Umbricius Scaurus, Pompeii)
Pompeii: The Exhibition was at the Pacific Science Center from Feb 7 – May 25, 2015.

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