Pompeii Still at Risk

Martin Bailey for the Art Newspaper reports on UNESCO taking the initial steps towards putting Pompeii on the World Heritage in Danger list. A report published in June (to little fanfare) found that:

Although much of Pompeii ­remains in good repair, the problems are numerous, including “inappropriate restoration ­methods and a general lack of qualified staff… restoration projects are outsourced and the quality of the work of the contractors is not being assessed. An efficient drainage system is lacking, ­leading to water infiltration and excessive moisture that gradually degrades the structural condition of the buildings as well as their decor. The mission was also concerned by the amount of plant growth, particularly ivy.” . . . Pompeii attracted more than 2.3 million visitors in 2010 and on the busiest days it had 20,000. Sheer numbers, along with careless behaviour, are causing considerable damage: “Visitors in groups rub against the decorated walls, all too often with their rucksacks, or lean against them to take the best possible photographs,” says the report.

That has been my experience on visiting Pompeii as well. Do people need to touch and scramble over everything? On visiting the site, perhaps the calls by some to just bury parts of the site, and leave open only those areas which can be properly managed and visited is the right answer. I was surprised to learn that in 1956 there were 66 restored houses open to visitors, but today only 15 are open, and these are badly damaged by ignorant tourists and inefficient security.

There has been €105m set aside by the European Union, and a UNESCO ‘action plan’ could enable that money to be spent. However the funding cuts at UNESCO which resulted from the unfortunate decision on the one hand by the U.S. to cut all UNESCO support, and second, but UNESCO member states and Palestine to force the political brinksmanship may put that funding in jeopardy.

  1. Martin Bailey, Italy allows Unesco into Pompeii, The Art Newspaper, January 4, 2012, http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Italy+allows+Unesco+into+Pompeii/25422 (last visited Jan 5, 2012).
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com