Tuesday 28 September 2010

Exhibition dates extended for "Napoli: la città e il mare"

It might be worth knowing (as it doesn't seem to be advertised anywhere) that the current temporary exhibition at the Naples Archaeological Museum on "Napoli: la città e il mare" did not close on 20 September but has been extended until November. I took the opportunity of free entry on the European Cultural Days to finally go and have a look.

The exhibition is intended to complement and update the permanent exhibition of results from ongoing work on Naples' metro network (if you want to see the permanent exhibition you need to enter the museum from the "Museo" metro station - free entry). The new display is based on recent discoveries at Piazza Bovio (the new "Università" station), compared to 1800s finds at the Fondamento Marramarra.

The exhibition has been installed in the main entrance hall of the museum which is a huge shame because it has meant the removal of lots of the amazing Herculaneum sculpture that had been put on permanent display only last year (and which may not return now due to costs of moving such large pieces). The panels in Italian and English are well illustrated with some great reconstructions and very helpful maps - but are totally confusing in terms of chronology (focusing on the Roman to the Byzantine period, there is no clear route round the displays which skip from topic to topic). And while the panels discuss a range of material culture that shed new light on the ancient port area of Naples (such as evidence for glass making, lots of ceramics, human remains, etc), none of this is on display. What you can see are the marble fragments surviving from two monumental arches from the Roman imperial period - which are fantastic and made the visit worth while, but reveal the museum's art historical bias.

Although I was ultimately unsatisfied with the result of this small exhibition (but this is only a personal view!), the museum should be praised for its ongoing commitment to share the results of recent development-driven archaeology in Naples. There is an accompanying catalogue (25 euros) which makes these results more widely available to all scholars and interested visitors. My biggest request: we want much more please!!

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