Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pompeii theme park: it's a good idea, and I won't even be condescending when I tell you why

Via Twitter, I heard this bit on BBC radio earlier about having a historical theme park outside of Pompeii. I want you to take four and a half minutes to listen to it, and just marvel at how ridiculous this clip is. They had Caroline Lawrence, an archaeologist turned children's writer, come onto the show to talk about this amazing idea only to have it be massively, condescendingly, buffoonishly (I don't care if that's not a real word) shot down by Prof. Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, director of the Herculaneum Conservation project and master of Sidney Sussex College Cambridge.

Lawrence (who I think has the most calming voice I've ever heard) believes that having a historical Pompeii theme park near the ruins could alleviate the stress that tourism places on the ruins; provide an environment that would give people, especially children, a much better idea of what we have learned about Pompeii through archaeology by bringing it to life; and create a source of funds for maintaining and excavating the ruins. I agree with her. She's written this list of top ten ideas for why this could work, every one of them a gem. I think this is a rock star of a concept, and I'd like to see it happen.

However, Wallace-Hadrill's contribution to this discussion, though it takes up the majority of the four minutes, is the verbal equivalent of an incredulous laugh. I really hate it when people get nervous about disagreeing with someone, so they put on that "I'm-chuckling-because-I-think-your-idea-is-stupid-and-you-don't-know-anything-about-it-but-let-me-simply-explain-it-for-you-like-you're-a-dumb-child" tone. It's like, either respect me as a person and tell me straight up as an adult why you disagree, or just hush your mouth. Instead of responding with a suggestion for how this idea could be better, how it could be funded, or suggesting his own ideas for how Pompeii should be promoted and preserved, Wallace-Hadrill only states that it should be preserved but that no one has any money to do it properly. And then he accidentally ends up saying something that supports Lawrence's idea, and tries to save himself by sounding even more didactic. So...what's your big idea then, dude? Obviously, Prof. Wallace-Hadrill is hiding his big idea from us all if he's so dead set against other people's fresh takes on a frustrating situation.

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