Sunday, July 20, 2008

Capware Virtual Museums Try to Relieve Pressure on Pompeii and Other Sites In Crisis

Images of what the bath complex in Pompeii originally looked like.

With the cries of alarm going up from the archaeological superintendent of Pompeii and other ancient sites around Vesuvius, digital artists from Capware, an Italian computer graphics company, have stepped forward to create virtual museums of many of the endangered sites in Italy in an effort to relieve the pressure from too many on-site visitors.

At the real site of Pompeii, "chunks of frescoes depicting life in the Roman city are missing, carried away by visitors or eroded by the elements. Graffiti is gouged into walls. Tourists ignore signs forbidding flash photography as they take pictures of erotic designs inside the Lupanare, an ancient brothel."

"Frescoes which would have been a rich "Pompeii red" when excavated in the 1800s have turned pinkish grey or peeled off altogether.

Scaffolding and steal beams prop up crumbling columns and roofs infiltrated by water. Many of the 1,500 houses at the site are closed to the public, either for repair works or for lack of custodians -- guards who retired have not been replaced."

"At least 150 square meters (1,600 square feet) of frescoes and plaster are lost to lack of upkeep each year and 3,000 stones crumble away, Antonio Irlando, the Campania region's alderman for culture, told newspaper Corriere della Serra on July 3." - Bloomberg

But, in Capware's virtual Pompeii, Herculaneum, Boscoreale, Baiae, Capri, and Stabiae, the structures appear as they did to the ancient Romans themselves complete with vibrant frescoes, breathtaking sculpture and intricately adorned furnishings.

I particularly like some of the physicality effects of Capware's Musei E Mostre (click on the link in the lower left corner of the website then the Technologie tab in the center of the screen and watch the movie in the lower right corner. I love how they have combined graphics effects with motion sensors that enable a visitor to virtually swish their hand in the water of a mosaic pool! They must have combined their visuals with "Wii"-type controls.

As you explore their website be sure to check out the links on the colored bar just below each tabbed section as well. On the Pompeii tab, for instance, they have image collections for different sections of the city such as the House of the Faun, the brothel, the necropolis, and the House of the Tragic Poet. The site is in Italian but the breathtaking images speak for themselves!

If Capware's imagery was combined with the multi-directional treadmill (I mentioned in an earlier post) into a facility that permitted a kind of physical exploration of each site, some people's curiosity may be sufficiently gratified to the degree that they would be willing to forgo admission to the actual sites themselves. You would probably need one installation adjacent to Pompeii with only a small restricted portion of Pompeii available for foot traffic to satisfy the more adventurous travelers, then one touring facility that could not only provide an educational and cultural experience for milllions of others but serve as a focus of attention on the need to preserve our collective cultural heritage and encourage contributions to research and preservation efforts.

An restored interior view from the House of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii.

Images of Roman Aqueducts



Capware's Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum

I had to marvel at the images of the Villa dei Papiri and was exhilarated to have confirmed the accuracy of its life-sized counterpart at the Getty Villa in Malibu, California that I visited again just a few weeks ago:

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