HOUSTON, TEXAS—For centuries, the story of what happened to the ancient Roman city of Pompeii has captivated the world. The city lost and buried by the ash and volcanic debris of Mount Vesuvius remains a testament to nature’s fury, a tragic time capsule of life some 2,000 years ago.
Opening to the public at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on Saturday, Feb. 13, POMPEII: The Exhibition is a humbling, awe-inspiring look at ancient Roman life preserved for centuries. Members see the special exhibition first, Friday, Feb.12.
“Late in the fall of the year 79 A.D., people woke up in the Roman city of Pompeii, little aware that they would not live another day. Within hours, Vesuvius unleashed mortal mayhem, and within two days, as the eruption ended, Pompeii had disappeared from the map,” says HMNS Curator of Anthropology Dr. Dirk Van Tuerenhout.
As patrons walk through the exhibition, they find that even though this event occurred in 79 A.D., daily life in Pompeii wasn’t so different than ours. The artifacts preserved in the ruins — discovered by archaeologists — remind us that even though we are separated by centuries, life in Pompeii had all the hallmarks of a modern city. It had a thriving city centre, food stalls, fine art, and even graffiti remarking on the day-to-day experience of its residents.
The exhibition coming to Houston includes eight body casts excavated from the site of Pompeii residents. Eight lives that ended all too briefly.
“Buried deep in the ash lay a snapshot of Roman life. People, rich and poor, personal belongings, animals, all were swept away by this volcanic fury,” Tuerenhout adds. “Over time, the story was forgotten, and life continued. But 1,700 years later, workmen found the ruins of Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum. Ever since then, excavations have continued. Slowly, methodically, our understanding of what happened has grown.”
“Venite, videte et discete,” says Tuerenhout. “That means ‘come, see, and learn’ in Latin.”
Produced by IMG, POMPEII: The Exhibition features more than 150 precious artifacts on loan from the unparalleled collection of the Naples National Archaeological Museum in Italy. Included in that list are 10 artifacts on their first-ever tour in any exhibition in the United States. Those items include a first-century, bronze gladiator helmet; a Citharist bronze statue of Apollo, dating to 50 A.D; and several remarkable fresco paintings, including one of Dionysus and Silenus, dating between 50 and 79 A.D.
As visitors walk through the exhibition, they travel back in time to that fateful morning of the eruption. In a media-rich, object-based, immersive experience, they learn how Pompeii was a bustling commercial port and strategic military and trading center. Artifacts – including frescoes, mosaics, and statues from the sites – recreate a sense of this world as visitors discover how its people lived, loved, worked, worshipped, and found entertainment.
POMPEII: The Exhibition, tells the tale of this city, hidden from view and forgotten for centuries until its rediscovery more than 250 years ago. The sudden disaster that destroyed it also preserved it and over time archaeologists have uncovered a unique record of its daily life — roads, buildings, municipal services, paintings, mosaics, artifacts, and even preserved bodies. Ongoing excavations at the site provide an ever-evolving picture of everyday life at the height of the Roman Empire.
The Exhibition experience includes:
- Introductory theatre where the scene is set in a video with dramatic reconstructions that describes Pompeii and the nearby volcano.
- Visitors are then transported back in time to 79 A.D. and find themselves in a reproduced atrium from a Roman villa, where they embark on a journey through the ancient city.
- Through the use of projections, audio, video, photographic murals, and graphic reproductions of frescoes and mosaics, visitors experience different locations that existed in the city, including a market, a temple, theater, and baths.
- Over 150 authentic artifacts help bring the story of Pompeii to life. These remarkable objects include: Mosaics and frescoes, gladiator helmets, armor, and weapons, a ship’s anchor, lamps, jugs, cups, plates, pots and pans and other household objects and furniture, jewelry, medical instruments, and tools.
- A simulated 4D eruption theater allows visitors to experience the deathly impact Mount Vesuvius had on this ancient city, culminating in the reveal of full body casts of twisted human forms, asphyxiated by extreme heat and noxious gases and forever frozen in time.
POMPEII: The Exhibition is on display Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021 – Monday, Sept. 6, 2021. Advance tickets are recommended and can be purchased online at www.hmns.org or guests can purchase tickets in person at the HMNS Box Office or kiosks. To allow for proper social distancing, HMNS is operating at 50% capacity. Learn more about our health precautions before your visit. This exhibition is supported by HMW Entertainment and the Consulate General of Italy in Houston.
Admission to POMPEII: The Exhibition is $15 for members; $30 for adults; $21 for children and seniors (60+). All tickets are for timed entry and include admission to permanent exhibit halls.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science—one of the nation’s most heavily attended museums—is a centerpiece of the Houston Museum District. With four floors of permanent exhibit halls, and the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center, Burke Baker Planetarium and George Observatory and as host to world-class and ever-changing touring exhibitions, the Museum has something to delight every age group. With such diverse and extraordinary offerings, a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, located at 5555 Hermann Park Drive in the heart of the Museum District, is always an adventure.
IMG is a global leader in sports, fashion, events and media. The company manages some of the world’s greatest athletes and fashion icons; owns and operates hundreds of live events annually; and is a leading independent producer and distributor of sports and entertainment media. IMG also specializes in licensing, sports training and league development. IMG is a subsidiary of Endeavor, a global entertainment, sports and content company.
About Naples National Archaeological Museum
A world class museum located in the heart of the city, the National Archaeological Museum of Naples houses one of the most important collections of classical archaeology in the world. Set in the massive 16th century palace Palazzo degli Studi, the museum was founded by Ferdinand IV in 1777. Formed from the discoveries from the Vesuvian Excavations which were at the time exhibited in Museo Herculanese in the Royal Palace at Portici and his family’s extensive collection of art and Roman antiquities, the Farnese collection, today the museum holds over three million objects of archaeological and historic importance.
MANN is certainly the essence of Pompeii and its important and vast collection of Vesuvian antiquities shows it. It is the museum of the capital of the kingdom of the Bourbons, the place where all the attention to western values of classical culture begins. The Museum includes an incredible patrimony: the world’s most important collection of classical sculpture, brought to Naples by the Farnese family and representing the evolution of western sculpture; furthermore MANN is the gate of the Italian culture and of Ancient Greece thanks to the discoveries made in the Kingdom of Two Sicilies; it has the second largest Egyptian section – after the one in Turin – with the peculiarity of having a lot of objects that appeared in Italy before the Napoleonic expedition, where you can discover the taste of the pre-Napoleon’s Egyptian culture and owns a collection of nearly 2500 documents written in Latin, Greek, and dialects of the Italic peoples.
MANN boasts the richest and most valuable collection of artworks and artifacts of archaeological interest in Italy and is considered one of the most important archaeological museums in the world, if not the most important concerning Pompeii’s history.