Quantcast
Connect with us

PHOTOS: Museum recreates ancient Roman city of Pompeii — using 190,000 Lego blocks

Published

on

Roman Lego characters (Johnson Cameraface/Flickr)

Lego Pompeii was painstakingly recreated from more than 190,000 individual blocks across 470 hours for Sydney University’s Nicholson Museum – it’s the largest model of the ancient city ever constructed out of Lego blocks. There is a mix of ancient and modern elements within the model’s narrative; displaying Pompeii as it was at the moment of destruction by the volcano Vesuvius in 79AD, as it was when rediscovered in the 1700s, and as it is today.

ADVERTISEMENT

The historical model is the exhibition centrepiece in an archaeological museum where, until recently, displays of Lego would have been unthinkable.

The Nicholson Museum, with collections of artefacts from the Mediterranean region, Egypt and the Middle East, is a place where visitors can expect to see Greek vases, Egyptian sculpture and ceramic sherds from Jericho.

Yet since 2012, the museum has commissioned professional Lego builder Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught to recreate three ancient sites made from Lego. Together these models represent an interesting experiment; attracting a new audience to the museum space and demonstrating the importance of fun in a museum context.

Ryan McNaught with his creation Lego Pompeii.
Craig Barker/Nicholson Museum

The Brickman’s historical constructions

The first Nicholson Lego scale model was a replica of the Colosseum in Rome.

The joy of the model was its ability to contrast the old with the new. Half the model featured the amphitheatre in antiquity; the other half featured the building in ruins with Lego modern tourists.

ADVERTISEMENT

The model proved such a success it subsequently toured several regional NSW galleries and museums. It is currently displayed at the Albury Regional Art Gallery along with Roman artefacts from the Nicholson Museum’s collection.

The second model, opened in 2013, was the Lego Acropolis, which featured buildings of ancient Athens peopled with historical Greek figures. It is now displayed at the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

The Lego Acropolis.
Phil Rogers/Nicholson Museum

 

ADVERTISEMENT

McNaught’s latest and most ambitious construction, Lego Pompeii, as with previous creations, also sits firmly at the centre of the museum’s educational aspirations.

The study of the cities of Vesuvius is central to the Higher School Certificate (HSC) Ancient History syllabus, with more than 13,000 students annually sitting HSC exams with questions on the archaeological site.

ADVERTISEMENT

Likewise the city forms the basis of undergraduate courses on Roman history. The model provides a means of introducing students to issues of Roman daily life, architecture and the history of the excavations in a visual way, different from their classroom experience.

Educators can explore with their students features of the ancient city such as bakeries and bars, temples and marketplaces or they can examine the modern history of excavating pointing out archaeologists such as Fiorelli, Spinazzola or Maiuri all of whom are replicated along with modern investigators.

Lego Pompeii.
Craig Barker/Nicholson Museum

 

ADVERTISEMENT

The legacy of Pompeii in popular culture is also depicted: from Bulwer-Lytton’s famous novel The Last Days of Pompeii (1834) to more recent Hollywood movies, such as Pompeii (2014). All are topics in the school syllabus and are depicted in Lego in order to stimulate both discussion and entertainment.

The genuine article debate

The Nicholson Museum is not the only museum to have used Lego and other “non-traditional” materials for displays. The Museum of Sydney’s current exhibition Towers of Tomorrow features Lego models of iconic buildings.

These and other international exhibitions such as Hampton Roads Naval Museum in he US with its program of Lego shipbuilding, form part of a much larger debate within the museum sector about how to excite audiences and the use of “non-traditional” displays is gaining popularity.

The use of a popular medium such as Lego enabled the museum to present the ancient world in a way that captures new audiences who may not necessarily be museum-goers and ensure that fun is a central component of the museum visit.

ADVERTISEMENT

From personal experience I have seen children engrossed in the Lego display, but then actually spend far longer exploring the collection as a whole. Education and entertainment need not be mutually exclusive in a museum.

In recent times, there has been much debate on museum visitor engagement and reassessment of the concept that museums must be exclusively reserved for the “real” or the “genuine”.

Lego Pompeii.
Craig Barker/Nicholson Museum

 

I argue that the idea of a museum of exclusively “genuine” material is a relatively recent invention. Since the 18th century European museums have been filled with corkboard models of Classical architecture. There were even precedents for Lego Pompeii: Sir John Soane’s House in London has a cork model of Pompeii, while the famous 1:100 model of the city in the National Museum of Naples has been wowing visitors since the 1870s.

ADVERTISEMENT

Plaster casts of classical sculpture were popular in collections in an era when international travel was expensive and reproduction images (either photography or illustrations) were rare.

Natural history museums and war memorials used diorama models in the early part of the 20th century. Modelling and reproductions were designed to take visitors on a journey of discovery. But by the late 20th century, models were often removed from display and sold off.

The Nicholson Museum gave most of its plaster casts of sculpture to schools in the 1960s, highlighting the thinking of the era which saw copies as suitable for education, but museums were to be reserved for genuine historical material only.

This mindset has changed again over the past decade as museums have become central to educational philosophy again. Subsequently, a number of European museums who retained their collection of casts, such as the Museum of Classical Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, and the recently revamped plaster cast courts at the V&A, are now seeing increases in popularity as the artistic, historic and aesthetic value of the casts are reassessed by a modern audience.

The use of Lego in a museum context is a 21st-century continuity of this much older tradition of displaying interpretive models. Lego Pompeii and other models of this ilk are a fun and engaging tool for reaching audiences in an exciting new way.

ADVERTISEMENT

 

The Lego Pompeii exhibition at the Nicholson Museum runs until December 31, 2015.

The Conversation

By Craig Barker, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

ADVERTISEMENT


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

2020 Election

Here’s why Wall Street has decided it’s fine with Democrats sweeping the election

Published

on

President Donald Trump has tried to portray himself as an economic savior, and warned that Joe Biden winning the election would be a disaster for jobs and businesses.

But according to Politico, Wall Street executives don't agree. Many of them are now actively rooting for Democrats to sweep the 2020 election — because Republicans have failed to deliver crucial stimulus.

"Traders in recent weeks have been piling into bets that a 'blue wave' election, in which Democrats also seize the Senate, will produce an economy-juicing blast of fresh fiscal stimulus of $3 trillion or more that carries the U.S. past the coronavirus crisis and into a more normal environment for markets," reported Ben White. "Far from panicking at the prospect of a Biden win, Wall Street CEOs, traders and investment managers now mostly say they would be fine with a change in the White House that reduces the Trump noise, lowers the threat of further trade wars and ensures a continuation of the government spending they’ve seen in recent years."

Continue Reading

2020 Election

Expert: Trump in a ‘dangerous’ battle with Bloomberg to win Texas for Biden

Published

on

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg this week revealed that he's making a major last-minute ad blitz aimed at winning both Texas and Ohio for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

According to the New York Times, Bloomberg's Independence USA super PAC is "directing millions toward television advertising" in the two states in the hopes of swaying undecided voters into backing Biden instead of President Donald Trump.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

MSNBC’s Morning Joe can’t wait for Democrats to throw McConnell’s words back in his face

Published

on

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave Democrats every justification to expand the Supreme Court.

The "Morning Joe" host -- an ex-Republican -- said Democrats should throw McConnell's words back in his face to make the case for expanding the court if they retake the majority, after Republicans brazenly violated their own precedent to ram through Amy Coney Barrett.

"I love watching stuff like this," Scarborough said. "This is, like, do I need some popcorn? No, I'll tell you why. Every word that Mitch McConnell -- every single word -- and if Democrats have half a brain, and if they're not wimps, they will actually lift that speech word for word and use it when they expand the court to 11 or 12 justices."

Continue Reading
 
 
Democracy is in peril. Invest in progressive news. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free. LEARN MORE