Friday, 11 October 2013

"We need a holiday, Terentius. Let's go to London"

Promotional Image for the British Museum exhibition
Being what people think and feel in front of Pompeian artefacts part of my research, the British Museum exhibition Life and Death in Herculaneum sounded like a wonderful opportunity to observe the audience's behavior and conduct some interviews without flying to Campania.

I got very excited about this exhibition and, apparently, so did London as the tickets were quickly sold out. 
The British Museum exhibition also allowed to compare different displays of the same artefact and their effectiveness. And, actually, the BM’s concept couldn’t be more different from the Museum of Naples’s one (where the majority of the items are usually exhibited).

Unlike the Museum of Naples, were the artefacts are displayed with little or no contextual information, as they were able to be self explanatory, the BM has built the exhibition around the idea of «house». Many of the items were arranged accordingly, using spatial relationships to give a basic level of contextualisation.

Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum
British Museum, 2013. Getty Images
Before comparing some aspects of the two museum environments (which are indeed very different historically and structurally), I want to discuss what people told me about Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum, starting with few quick notes about the selection of my sample.
The BM audience is international and multicultural. I have tried to interview people that, according to a quick (and obviously unreliable) assessment, came from outside UK, because I was interested in hearing different «voices» about Pompeian artefacts. However, the foreigners  I have tried to talk with often didn’t speak English at all. So, against my explicit commitment, almost the totality of my respondents are British or Americans. The people that were more willing to spend few minutes answering my questions were mostly the ones that have a bigger amount of spare time compared to the average population: retired and students.

My special thanks go to a couple of ladies of the University of Third Age: the only ones that, at the end of the questionnaire, were a bit disappointed by its brevity...

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