On Aug. 24, 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius spewed 1.5 million tons of lava per second and unleashed the thermal energy equivalent of more than one hundred thousand Hiroshima atomic bombs, destroying Pompeii.
Beginning in November, visitors to Union Station will have the opportunity to relive that fateful day and the civilization decimated by the volcano in “Pompeii: The Exhibition,” presented by Bank of America.
“This new exhibition allows you to explore treasures and experience life in the bustling city of Pompeii before time essentially stopped,” said John Norman, president of Exhibitions International and producer of the internationally touring Pompeii exhibition. “Guests will then relive the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in a 4D eruption theatre before stepping into the last gallery featuring the most iconic artifacts of Pompeii — actual body casts of those who perished.”
The same ash and debris that buried Pompeii also preserved it, allowing future generations to examine life in a bustling commercial port and strategic military and trading center in the ancient world. Visitors to the exhibition will be transported back in time to 79 A.D. and find themselves in a reproduced atrium from a Roman villa, where they will embark on a journey through ancient Pompeii.
The exhibit will feature nearly 200 artifacts on loan from the Naples National Archeological Museum in Italy. Ten of them have never been seen in a U.S. exhibition, including a first-century bronze gladiator helmet, a Citharist bronze statue of Apollo dating to 50 A.D., and several fresco paintings, including one of Dionysus and Silenus dating to 50-79 A.D. Also on view: lamps, jugs, cups, plates, pots, pans, tools, armor, weapons, jewelry, furniture, medical instruments and a ship’s anchor.
Through the use of projections, audio, video, photographic murals, and graphic reproductions of frescoes and mosaics, visitors will experience locales such as a market, a temple, a theater and baths that existed in Pompeii before the eruption.
A simulated eruption theater will allow visitors to experience the deadly impact Mount Vesuvius had on Pompeii, culminating in the display of full body casts of twisted human forms, asphyxiated by extreme heat and noxious gases and forever frozen in time.
Several of the casts were created by Kearney, Mo.-based paleosculptor Gary Staab, who recreates ancient fossils and skeletal remains in mesmerizing detail. (A profile of Staab appeared in the May/June issue of KC Studio.) Staab travelled to Pompeii to do the fieldwork, which included, as he told Archaeology magazine, “(lying) in the dust where these people died.”— Julius A. Karash
“Pompeii: The Exhibition” opens Nov. 18 at Union Station, 30 W. Pershing, and continues through spring 2017. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. General admission is $19.95 for adults, $16.95 for seniors, and $12.95 for children ages 3 to 12. For tickets and more information call 816.460.2020 or visit www.unionstation.org.