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Hear Philly: ‘One Day In Pompeii’ Brings History To Life At The Franklin Institute

(Credit:  The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA.)

(Credit: The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA.)

By Carrie Hodousek

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — “One Day in Pompeii” is the current major exhibition at the Franklin Institute, telling the story of how the city disappeared under layers of volcanic ash after the sudden eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79 AD.

Archaeologists have uncovered a unique record of over 150 artifacts that visitors can not only view, but also experience the everyday life during the height of the Roman Empire.

“You can see some of the eating utensils and the medical devices. There are highlights like the gladiator equipment and the shin guards, ” says Creative Director Mark Lach.

The installation that took three and a half weeks also includes a simulated volcanic impact through the use of audio and video, with a ground-shaking, smoke-filled room that takes visitors through the 24-hour time period of the events that led up to the eruption.

“The expectations of visitors are a little higher than they used to be, and they’re looking for an experience. You could put one case in the middle of the room with a single lightbulb on top of it and it would still be very interesting, but at the same time there are some opportunities that you have to be theatrical, experiential, provide backdrops and context to some of the objects,” Lach says.

Work still continues both in Pompeii and the coastal town Herculaneum just miles away, with emphasis on preserving what’s still there today.

“Folks in LA had taken over one house and were working to preserve the frescos and the paintings on the walls, so there’s constant maintenance and preservation of the site. Things will be discovered in the future, but if you walk the streets there you realize a city that once was completely covered is now alive.”

As of now, people are living their everyday lives, but the one horrific factor they still have to deal with is the possibility of the volcano erupting again, meaning history could repeat itself.

“I love when families come,” says Lach. “You probably work right up to the last minute, but when the doors finally open you hope you’ve done something you can be proud of and the experience is something people will remember.”

The exhibition can be viewed until Sunday, April 27th. For more information you can visit the Franklin Institute’s website.

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