Ralph Applebaum Associates

Skip to content

Main Menu

Pompeii: Life and Death in the Shadow of Vesuvius

New York, New York

“Pompeii the Exhibit: Life and Death in the Shadow of Vesuvius” was a traveling exhibition that told the story of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79 A.D., which put an end to the Roman city of Pompeii.

For its world-premiere exhibition at Discovery Times Square, RAA designed a three-part exhibition featuring the town and people of Pompeii before, during, and after the massive eruption. Highlights include more than 250 artifacts unearthed in the towns buried by the volcanic eruption, the largest collection of body casts ever publicly presented, and an immersive theater experience depicting the eruption.

One room is devoted to casts of 32 skeletal remains found four miles away from Pompeii, in Herculaneum, which was also destroyed. Nine of the skeletons were of children younger than 12. RAA’s strategy was to show these only after visitors have come to learn about Pompeii as a thriving town. The volcanic debris that destroyed these towns also preserved them, along with elaborately painted frescoes, exquisite mosaics, tools of business and trade, and gladiators’ armor.

A timeline—with embedded exhibits—illustrates a history of Mount Vesuvius’ eruptions and archaeological events in this birthplace of archaeology. The exhibit was designed to capture the essence of daily life in Pompeii, through the display of gold coins, jewelry, home furniture, everyday utensils, burial urns—and even a perfectly preserved loaf of bread.

As a New York Times reviewer wrote: “The best evidence of the show’s success is that though touch screens provide some glimpses of Pompeii, no one can see this exhibition’s small fraction of the site’s relics and not also wish to see them all.”

Size 12,000 square feet

Year 2011

Project Details

FabricationMaltbie, a Kubik Company

Audio-Visual IntegrationACME Professional Inc.

LightingTechnical Artistry

ScriptwritingMuseum Victoria, Judith Harris, RAA, and Running Subway