Comment 88073

By Noted (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2013 at 13:39:37

Pompeii’s longstanding problems have stymied a succession of Culture Ministry archaeologists entrusted with its conservation. Stefano De Caro, who oversaw the archaeological work at Pompeii from 1977 to 1984, says the site’s woes stem from Italy’s shortsighted budget policies, which have kept it in a near-constant state of crisis.

“The fact is that Pompeii has been underfunded for 50 years, and gorging on funds every once in a while doesn’t help if you need to eat every day,” said Mr. De Caro, who is now director general of the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, or Iccrom, based in Rome....

The new conservation strategy of Pompeii will be focused less on restoring individual monuments than on comprehensive maintenance, including improved water collection and disposal. Conservators say that many recent collapses were the result of bad drainage and the slow erosion of the ancient mortar.

Conservation has been hindered by a hiring freeze, particularly of skilled restorers but also of lower-level maintenance workers. “It’s been a situation with lots of generals but no troops,” said Valerio Papaccio, an architect currently overseeing preservation....

Officials say the Great Pompeii Project has a better chance of succeeding where other plans have failed because it is a comprehensive strategy involving three ministries: Culture, Interior and Territorial Cohesion. Economic development officials examine the investment potential of bids, while Interior Ministry officials make sure they are awarded to companies without ties to organized crime.

There are also timid advancements to introduce private sponsorship at the site, much in the same way that the Packard Humanities Institute has made the nearby Herculaneum, also buried by Vesuvius, a model site for archaeological preservation.

But some veteran observers doubt whether Italy will ever be able to finish the job. “The city has been excavated to an extent that it cannot be properly preserved, so we should just rebury parts of it,” said Mr. De Caro of Iccrom. “This way isn’t working, and to maintain things the way they are means certain death.”

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