First excavated by archaeologists some 30 years ago, the warehouses were recently outfitted with walkways and gates to provide access to these chilling tableaus and will soon be open to the public on special occasions.
Reviving history for a modern audience “is one of the beautiful things we get to do,” said Mr. Camardo, the lead archaeologist with the Herculaneum Conservation Project, a joint initiative of the Packard Humanities Institute, of Los Altos, Calif.; the local artistic heritage authority; and the British School at Rome. The project, an unusual public-private venture, has effectively managed the site for more than a decade and made it possible to complete tasks like the walkways to the skeleton casts.
Compared with its better-known Vesuvian neighbor, Pompeii, where local officials, constrained by inadequate and mismanaged government funds, have long struggled in their efforts to conserve and protect the sprawling open-air site — and even to prevent the periodic and well publicized collapse of walls — Herculaneum has become a textbook case of successful archaeological conservation.
For many years archaeologists and conservators have undertaken what they describe as “invisible work” here, like installing cost-effective protective roofing or reactivating the Roman sewers under the ancient city so that buildings can once again drain rainwater. Rather than focusing on a set of frescoes, say, or an individual house, “we’ve been reasoning on broader terms,” Mr. Camardo said. “This takes more time, and is far less splashy because you’re looking at sewers and drainpipes, but in the end it’s more effective.”
In addition to time the work also took the deep pockets of the American philanthropist David W. Packard, son of one of the founders of Hewlett-Packard, who has topped up state resources by discreetly funneling more than $20 million into the project over the past 12 years, creating a team of specialists, nearly all Italian, to reinforce the local heritage staff.
More at the NYT link.