The museum’s first cinema live event of its 2013 exhibition Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum is available to watch for free on Youtube.
Having been to Pompeii years ago and missed out on seeing this exhibition for myself, it is fantastic to see that the British Museum is allowing people to experience its live cinema event once more.
Five years in the making Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum opened at the British Museum in 2013 and was quickly one of its most popular exhibitions. Even from watching it here it is clear to see why.
Presented by Peter Snow and Bettany Hughes, audiences are taken through what daily life looked like for people up until the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 in every element of their life. The exhibition features a wide range of objects from cooking utensils to frescos and beyond – to offer an immensely detailed portrait of the lives of ordinary people and the tragedy of their untimely deaths.
Featuring interviews with the likes of Mary Beard, Rachel De Thame and Giorgio Locatelli, the exhibition feels even more fascinating as experts provide extra insight as we are taken through domestic life not only in Pompeii but also Herculaneum which was destroyed by the eruption first. This is effectively portrayed in the way in which the exhibition is presented to reflect what the houses would have looked like at the time, choosing to focus more on the life in the cities rather than the tragedy to hit them.
Every object has been carefully selected, with some of the most fascinating proving to be the most unexpected. This includes carbonised bits of food such as bread, frescos that depict the social lives of ordinary people – including one set in a bar and discoveries made in the drains of the Herculaneum – it all feels like a lot of care and attention has been taken to give as an accurate portrayal as possible.
What also makes this such a thrill to watch is just how much evidence of the comforts of life that the people enjoyed then – but also makes you feel the impact of the tragedy that hit them all – with stories relating to objects of those whose bodies were discovered on the beach revealing how the tragedy impacted on people of all walks of life. The final moments of the exhibition which features human bodies, entombed in the ash and decayed that were later used as moulds to make plaster casts of people in the positions that they dies feels even more tragic.
Overall, this was a wonderful way to see this exhibition particularly if you missed out on it the first time round. Fascinating and deeply researched, it is well worth a watch if you are missing heading to the British Museum in person.
By Emma Clarendon
Pompeii live: Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum is available to watch through Youtube now.