Museums and Ruins

Just got back from Pompeii, Paestum, and the Naples Archaelogical Museum.

One thing I have noticed, about sites such as these, is how much is roped off or behind glass or otherwise set apart. You obviously can’t touch anything in the museum; at Paestum the three most interesting parts (the ancient Greek temples) were behind barriers; and at Pompeii, a lot of it was accessible, but a lot was not. And of course you aren’t allowed to go climbing or running around even the parts that are.

Something bugs me about this. The goal is to preserve these things for the future… but, if the future is only going to enjoy them as much as we do now, what is the point? Everything perishes – it’s fruitless to try to preserve these things forever. But it seems like that’s what we’re trying to do, at the expense of the good that we could get out of them now.

I know this isn’t really a brilliant argument, but it does seem to me that something is off with this… I would much prefer it if visitors to Paestum were able to go into the temples themselves, if the museums would allow people to touch the artifacts them have (at least some of them), if Pompeii would let you climb on walls and explore the area yourself… it would shorten the lifetime of those sites, but it would give us more out of them in the meantime.


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