Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Holy Vesuvius!

Many years ago, when Red Dot Diva was just a mere speck, the Singapore National Museum was a dark dusty place that looked and felt more like a forgotten storeroom of artefacts.

The museum was housed in a majestic but rather mysterious colonial building. And Red Dot Diva could still remember the infamous spiral staircase that was the cauldron of some ghostly tales concerning resident spooks. The entrance to the staircase was ominously chained up and constantly watched by a grumpy museum security guard.

The same historical building - now grandly restored with a new annexe - is much brighter and looks swankier to suit the times. However till today, that spooky Victorian-style staircase still remains closed to public access. (You can view a pic of that staircase here!)

Anyway, this blog post is not going to be about ghost-hunting. Red Dot Diva was just reminiscing about the good ol' days ;)

With the classy revamp of the National Museum's facilities and exhibits, she has enjoyed visiting the place at least once a year recently. When previously, she hardly visited it at all!

For one thing, the museum has definitely upped the ante on the quality of their special exhibitions. Last year's Egyptian Mummies exhibit was a hit with the locals, and this year's "Pompeii - Life In A Roman Town 79CE" exhibit seems to be getting rather popular too.

It was on a Saturday, Oct 30th afternoon when Red Dot Diva and her friend made her way to the museum for the Pompeii exhibit. The weather was already rainy outside, so they made sure they bundled themselves up to brave the cold exhibition hall (having visited the same place once for the Egyptian mummies exhibit!).

As soon as they stepped into the exhibit hall, they were immediately greeted by the macabre yet hauntingly beautiful resin casts of the Pompeiian victims from the eruption of Mt Vesuvius.

The casts gave a really good idea how the humans and creatures (like the poor household doggy in pic on right) were found in situ after the entire town perished in the volcanic catastrophy. Most seemed to have died where they sat or laid, unable to breathe... choked by the heavy layer of ash and fumes as they futilely struggled to escape from the calamity.

Red Dot Diva thought the 3D short film of what transpired within the day of Mt Vesuvius' eruption was very educational. The visual presentation, based on Pliny the Younger's witness account of what happened, showed the devastating effect when tons of ash and pumice fell mercilessly onto the busy ancient town for almost 24 hours. (There is a short clip of the video here on Youtube.)

Ironically, because of the pumice that covered the town, most of the buildings in Pompeii were kept intact when they were found by archeologists. The exhibit displayed some of the colourful fragments of frescos (see pic below) and paintings. The artwork were remarkably detailed. One of the key and most valuable exhibit was the gorgeous 2.4 m high mosaic fountain. All of these gave Red Dot Diva an idea of how lavishly the Roman villas were decorated.

A video sweep of "the Garden" section:

Some marble and bronze statues and were also found to be remarkably intact. There was an expectedly bosomy one of Venus and another bronze one of Bacchus - God of Wine. Other recognizable items of common use like a day bed, kitchenware and weighing scales, fish hooks, cups, jars were also displayed.

Another highlight of the exhibit was the elaborate 2,000-year-old bronze gladiator's helmet and armour. Being a fan of the Spartacus story, Red Dot Diva couldn't help admiring how heavy the helmet looked and the amount of artistry required to carve those intricate designs on the helmet. Looking at it was like meshing an actual piece of history and having it coming to life with the stories imagined in her head.

A very surreal feeling indeed.

For someone who can't yet afford to go to the real Pompeii historical site, this exhibition is a rumbling Red Dotted "must-see". Red Dot Diva attests that the exhibition definitely gives an eye-opening account of what life was like in ancient Roman times, and how swiftly and epicly devastating a volcanic eruption can be.

Perhaps one day, Red Dot Diva might make it to the actual ruins and walk down the cobbled alleyways of first century CE.

"Pompeii - Life In A Roman Town 79CE" is held at the National Museum till 23th Jan 2011. The museum's opening hours are 10am-6pm (last entry 5.30pm).

No comments:

Post a Comment