Saving Pompeii: A Heritage Site That Needs to Be Protected

16 Jul

Upon returning from our two-week trip to Europe, it took me about a week to sort through all the mail. I saved my magazines for last. However, although unexpected, I was not surprised at all to see what was on the cover of the July/August 2015 issue of Smithsonian. There was a depiction of a peeling fresco, and the headline, “The Plight of the Ancient City SAVING POMPEII.”

We had just toured Pompeii, a city I had dreamed about visiting since I was a little child. The idea that this entire town had been covered in ash and preserved for future generations so intrigued me as a child. I had to go.

Our tour guide was from the modern city of Pompeii. He had grown up near this wonderful ancient city. But I could tell from the tone of his voice and the comments he made, that all was not going well there.

He was constantly telling people in our group and in other groups “Do not touch the frescos.” Under his breath he would mutter, “I don’t know why they don’t put something over them.”

Frescos easily touched and uncovered.

Frescos easily touched and uncovered.

When we walked through the theater he made some comments as people asked what all the modern equipment was doing there. “They plan some shows,” he said. But when questioned further, he said nothing has been finished yet.

There was a street we could not go down. It was blocked with signs.

There were frescos that were fading from the sunlight.

There were seats that should not be used, that people sat on. He asked them to move. “I know it is a lot of walking,” he said. “But you really cannot sit there.”

When asked about some of these issues, he said, “I really do not know what they are thinking. They have to do something.”

And then I read my Smithsonian and I understood! The first thing I read was the article by Joshua Hammer, “The Fall and Rise and Fall of Pompeii.”

He wrote, “But the Pompeii experience has lately become less transporting. Pompeii has suffered devastating losses since the Schola Armaturarum collapsed in 2010. Every year since then has witnessed additional damage….” It goes on to discuss other issues like closed sections, buildings propped up with supports, grass and shrubs cropping up and more.

Propped up wall at Pompeii.

Propped up wall at Pompeii.

It makes me sad. As someone who had never been to Pompeii before, I still found it amazing. I am glad I have been able to walk down some of the roads and visit some of the villas and buildings. But even I noticed that all was not well. I saw the fading frescos, the closed roads, and the grasses growing in cracks, just as was mentioned in the article.

But then there are the beautiful colorful frescos that display the beauty of Pompeii.

But then there are the beautiful colorful frescos that display the beauty of Pompeii.

Something needs to be done to keep this wonderful site safe. I recommend all reading this article in Smithsonian, and learning about what has been happening in Pompeii.   I am hoping that those who are responsible for keeping the city safe read it as well, and work to continue to improve, secure, protect and save Pompeii.

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