You might be thinking I’m a little confused about geography. After all, this is a blog about travelling all 50 states in the USA, and Pompeii, well, that’s in Italy. But thanks to a traveling museum exhibition, you can get a glimpse of Pompeii without leaving the USA. This exhibition, A Day in Pompeii, is currently at the Cincinnati Museum Center through
Aug. 12, 2012 Aug. 19, 2012.
Since this is also a blog about travelling with kids, I’m going to approach this by looking at both the positives and negatives of taking kids to this exhibit. After all, Pompeii was the site of a traumatic natural disaster; this might not be appropriate for all kids. My friend and book co-author, Laura Hoevener, visited this exhibit before I did and concluded that she thought it might be more than her 9-year-old could handle emotionally. Having a somewhat sensitive daughter also, when my daughter’s school chose this exhibit as a field trip destination, I volunteered to chaperone so that I could experience the exhibit alongside my daughter and gauge her reaction and that of her classmates.
I’ll start with the positive: this was a very well-done exhibit. It contains an ideal combination of artifacts and multi-media presentations. Brief films are mixed intermittently with artifacts and provide the background information for adults and kids alike to appreciate the artifacts they are about to see. The artifacts are organized into logical collections. The exhibit explains the archaeological process, then allows visitors to catch a glimpse into what life was like in a first century Roman town. You can learn what their homes were like, what foods they ate, and how they cooked. Here’s a picture of a portable stove.
Photography permitted in the exhibit, but flashes were not, so I apologize that some of my photos are blurry. Kids might get a kick out of seeing the first-century version of shin guards, certainly a little different from what kids wear to soccer practice today.
First century currency, in the form of gold coins, fascinates kids.
There’s also a lesson to be learned about human nature and the temptation to cheat with this dice shaker and loaded dice. The dice were weighted so one side was rolled more frequently.
You’ll learn that some Pompeians lived very luxuriously. They wore jewelry and decorated their homes with paintings, mosaics, and sculptures.
Now, on to some negatives: this was a very well-done exhibit. What were those people at the museum center thinking when they scheduled only an hour for school groups to see this exhibit??? The younger grades were definitely moving more quickly through the exhibit, and we were at the tail end with other 3rd and 4th graders. When we had just 15 minutes left of our allotted time (in order to see our scheduled Omnimax film on time), I asked one of the museum workers how much more of the exhibit we hadn’t seen yet. She replied that we were about halfway through. That meant we had to rush through the last half of Pompeii in 15 minutes. I was not happy about that. It seems almost criminal to me to rush a child who is engaged in an exhibit. I informally surveyed the kids afterwards to find out if they felt they’d had enough time in the exhibit. The Kindergarteners and 1st graders felt they had sufficient time, but several of the 3rd and 4th graders felt that they did not. So I guess it really depends on the age and interest level of the child. An important fact to note is that once you leave the exhibit, you are not permitted to reenter. For that reason, if you plan to see an Omnimax film also, I recommend seeing it first, then entering the Pompeii exhibit. Also, do not wait until the last hour of the day to enter the museum. The entrance fees are not insignificant. You don’t want to have to pay twice in order to see the entire exhibit.
Another negative: The exhibit allows visitors to catch a glimpse into what life was like in a first century Roman town. And some of those lifestyle exhibits are not appropriate for children to view. Now I’m not talking about your average nude statue. In particular, I’m talking about one painting that is labelled “Erotic Fresco”. The painting depicts a woman and two men engaged in sexual activity. When another parent chaperone and I saw that painting, I believe our jaws both dropped and we looked at each other and asked each other if that was what we thought it was. A couple of teachers and the other parent ended up standing side-by-side to block the students’ view of the painting. There’s a chance that the kids might not have even looked closely enough at the painting to generate any questions, but since I bill this blog as having parent-to-parent tips, I would be remiss if I failed to mention this erotic fresco. I also spotted a small figurine of a similar nature.
The second half of A Day in Pompeii focuses more on the volcano eruption. A film with a timeline of the eruption and simulation of the destruction is interesting, but might be troubling for some kids to watch. Another fascinating, but potentially disturbing, part of the exhibit is the body casts. While excavating the site, archaeologists found empty cavities and discovered that they were in the shape of people and animals who had been buried in ash, then disintegrated over time. Plaster was poured into the cavities to form casts of the bodies. The casts are quite detailed and might be disturbing because they show real people and animals in their final moments of life.
The very last room of Pompeii contained interactive exhibits. Unfortunately, I had time to snap a few photos, but not long enough for the kids to spend any time there. I saw an exhibit where you could build your own mosaic tile pattern and one where you could learn about Roman architecture.
I also saw some computer exhibits, but, as I said, we had to rush through the last half, so I didn’t really spend any time in that last room.
So, should you take your kids to see A Day in Pompeii? That’s up to you. Parents know their kids better than anyone else and know what they can handle and what might be a source of nightmares. The kids in our group seemed to be fine.
Another point to note is that this exhibit is a rare opportunity to view artifacts from Pompeii outside of Italy. While it’s not an inexpensive exhibit, it is most certainly less expensive than a trip to Italy! Cincinnati is the exhibit’s only stop in the midwest. After A Day in Pompeii leaves Cincinnati, it is headed to Denver.
A Day in Pompeii Visitor Information:
Now through August 12, 2012
Monday – Thursday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Friday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Adult – $19.50; Children (13 and younger) – $12.50; Senior – $17.50
Cincinnati Museum Center Members: Adult – $12.50; Children – $8.50
If you’d like to visit the actual ruins of Pompeii, Jessica Bowers of Suitcases and Sippy Cups wrote a great article called Tips for Tackling Pompeii with Kids.
Have you taken your kids to the Pompeii exhibit? What other advice would you share with parents considering whether or not to bring their kids to see it?