Local woman helps tell story of life in Pompeii

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By Christopher Harrop

DENVER — The story of Pompeii doesn’t start or end on the fateful day in 79 A.D. when nearby Mount Vesuvius buried the town for almost 1,700 years.

    Fort Lupton’s Lauren Books, who worked on the new Pompeii exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, says that there’s so much more for modern-day visitors to learn about Pompeii than simply the disaster it witnessed.
    “It’s ‘A Day in Pompeii,’” Brooks said, referring to the exhibit’s name. “Not, ‘The Last Day in Pompeii.”
    For Books, who graduated in May with a master’s degree in classical art and archeology from the University of Colorado in Boulder, the exhibit is about connecting the world of ancient Pompeii to our modern society.
    “These people in Pompeii, they lived, and they thrived, and they loved ... they weren’t very different from us,” Brooks said. “They were very technologically advanced like us.”
    Indeed, the citizens of ancient Pompeii enjoyed indoor plumbing long before it was common in many parts of the world.
    And as for chariot races? Brooks sees that as just a form of “ancient NASCAR.”
    “Things haven’t changed that much,” Brooks said.
    For Brooks, this exhibit is the latest in a ongoing fascination with ancient Rome and specifically Pompeii. In 2007 she made her first visit to Italy with her grandmother (who has Sicilian lineage), mother and a friend.
    During her undergraduate years, she took a class on Pompeii while focusing on theater. It was that class that prompted her to shift her studies to antiquities. Brooks has since learned to read Latin and ancient Greek.
    Brooks said most of her work on the Pompeii exhibit at the museum focused on crafting educational items, including putting together “accurate storylines” for the many enactors that can be found recreating everyday life of the ancient Pompeiians.
    Despite having plenty of artifacts (more than 250 are featured at the exhibit) and histories to draw from, Brooks said creating a proper narrative that’s in line with the “archeological framework” can be difficult.
    “Sometimes things will conflict with each other,” Brooks said.
    For visitors to the Phipps Special Exhibits Gallery at the museum where the exhibit is housed, there is a vast array of frescos, casts, shrines and other artifacts from Pompeii intermixed with the various enactors and a viewing area with a digital re-creation of the final day in Pompeii as Mount Vesuvius erupted.
    The exhibit runs through Jan. 13, 2013, at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver. Tickets start at $26. For details, visit www.dmns.org or call 303-370-6000.

Chris Harrop can be reached at
303-659-2522, ext. 225, or