On 'life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum', British Museum
The museology and exhibition-craft sadly does not fulfil the promise of the items therein. The exhibit seems to be comprised nearly entirely of bottlenecks, exacerbated by the lack of items in centre-cases. Putting the display cases against the walls, typically in the corners, makes them difficult to get to as well as presenting only one possible viewer position for what are frequently practical 3D objects of everyday use. This, too, is not helped by the overly small and uninformative attribution panels for each item, leading to visitors stooping over each other to read them. Far more fatally to the historiographical integrity of the exhibit however is the decision to plan it as a typical roman domus. Of course no such thing existed, the layouts and uses varying wildly between sites and across periods of day, year and history. Deciding to ignore the extensive literature that problematises modern labelling and schematising of Roman domestic cells and floor plans, respectively, leads to falsity of presentation. For example, the cubiculum is identified on the intro panel to that room as the 'bedroom', as if there was a straightforward analogy between the two. That naturally leads to the assertion that it was the location for erotic themes, as sleeping and sex assume the primary dual function of modern bed chambers. But at least one of the frescoes on display here is identified by the attribution as actually belonging to a tricinium. The only reason for its inclusion at this point is a decision to force the material to a thematised false scheme. It is not the only time misplaced thusly to match these themes, such as a fresco of Flora moved to fit with the hortus display room.
The ultimate extension of this naive approach is: "we are not certain what living rooms were called, but exedra ... and ... oecus were sometimes used." This is only a problem if one starts out with the conviction that the functional identities of the modern household can be mapped onto that of the ancient.
Despite these the naive and often uncomfortable visitor journey, the exhibit is definitely worth it for the uniqueness and moving artefacts. It was great to see so many elderly visitors taking advantage of the first time many of these long famous and infamous objects have reached our shores. But if you want to see how see the building-within-a-building display of history, go to Baracelona's MNAC.