A museum without walls?

Yesterday we visited the Colosseum in Rome. Yes…it’s amazing! What’s also amazing is that one of the top floors has been set up with “exhibition rooms” or small galleries to present different aspects of the history of the Colosseum. But this area is completely open! To pigeons…seagulls…wind…rain…snow (it can snow in Rome)…and extreme heat. So how and why is it done?

Below you see two views of introductory panels that have reproductions of views of the Colosseum from the 15th to the 19th cs.



Above are two views of “gallery spaces” that have been built to hold large-scale models of the Colosseum, various ancient sculptures and architectural pieces found in the excavations of the Colosseum, 18th- and 19th-c. paintings, micromosaics, drawings, and contemporary sculptures and videos. You can see the arches of the Colosseum are used as both supports as well as “walls” within the new “gallery spaces.”


Above is one of the displays in the new “gallery space.” You wouldn’t know you were in the Colosseum…and completely outside! You see a painting (a landscape), a glass case with four micromosaics, and a detail of one of the micromosaics depicting the Colosseum. (Micromosaics are just that…mosaics made of tiny tiny tiny tesserae [the different colored pieces of stone]. These were very popular in the 18th and 19th cs. Here is a link to some information about micromosaics.)

What are the curators’ concerns here? Why exhibit these materials here (sculptures, architectural pieces, paintings, decorative arts, reproductions of prints and paintings)? What value do they add to a visitors’ experience of the Colosseum? What problems do curators and registrars face when exhibiting precious objects in the open?

Ancient Roman Villa

What do you do when you discover an ancient Roman villa under your home? This is a question many Italians face today. If it isn’t a villa, it could be an amphitheatre or rooms from an ancient bath. This happened in 1934 in Minori, Italy, a very small town on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. In the 19th c. it was thought that some spaces below modern buildings belonged to ancient Roman baths — hypocaust systems (how the Romans heated water to make floors and interior spaces warm). Then in 1934 and again in 1954 the town suffered disastrous floods that revealed what this area really was….an impressive personal villa that could hold its own in a contest with Imperial villas. What was Minori to do?

This doesn’t just happen in Italy. Just a few weeks ago in Fredericksburg native American objects were found in the soil near were a new urban city park along the river.

Issues to consider: What if the land is private? What if the objects found are part of your national and personal identity?

Consider the above two issues and create a solution that will both for all parties: owners, a city.state/nation, future generations, your “humanist ideals.”

Above and below are images of the Roman Villa. You can see just how far below the ruins are located below the level of the city…and all of the houses and shops that have grown up over the ancient site.

The apartment building was built on top of the ancient villa…and so much of the villa is still not excavated.