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More than 40 years after it last closed, the Antiquarium -- the museum located on the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii -- has reopened to showcase artifacts from the Roman city.

Pompeii, of course, was destroyed along with neighboring Herculaneum in 79 A.D. by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Today, the ruins of Pompeii, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List, are the most-visited archaeological site in the world.

The Antiquarium has its own interesting history. The museum first opened in 1873. Then, as Pompeii Sites explains, during World War II, it was extensively damaged by bombing. Finally, after damage caused by a deadly earthquake in nearby Naples, the museum closed again and has remained closed since. This week, however, the museum reopened.

A New Beginning

Massimo Osanna, director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, told the Associated Press that the opening is “a sign of great hope during a very difficult moment” for Italy’s tourism industry, which has seen a noticeable decline due to travel restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The museum is home to some of Pompeii’s best-preserved artifacts, including protective amulets as well as household objects such as a bronze food-warmer and tableware and marble and bronze statues.

The museum’s last room also holds casts made from the remains of some of Pompeii’s residents who tried to escape but succumbed due to the lava flow, volcanic gases, or falling lava stones projected by Vesuvius.

“I find particularly touching the last room, the one dedicated to the eruption, [where] the objects deformed by the heat of the eruption, the casts of the victims, and the casts of animals [are on display]” Osanna said in the AParticle. “Really, one touches with one’s hand the incredible drama that the 79 A.D. eruption was.”

The Antiquarium offers “an introduction to the site … told through the most significant artifacts of the ancient city, from the Samnite era [fourth century B.C.] to the tragic eruption of 79 [A.D.], with particular attention paid to the city’s inseparable link with Rome.”

In addition to some of the famous artifacts from Pompeii, it also includes some pieces that have not previously been displayed on-site.

“Many of the iconic pieces exhibited in the shows around the world were not actually available for Pompeii visitors,” Luana Toniolo, an archaeologist and head of the Antiquarium, told the Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA). “For security reasons, they were held in our storage rooms.”

Now, instead, they will be on display alongside a chatbot, or digital assistant, who will explain the pieces to visitors, Toniolo said.

Know Before You Go

Currently, as a result of Italy’s COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions, only visitors from Italy’s Campania region -- which includes Naples and the Pompeii ruins area -- can visit the museum.

However, once the restrictions are relaxed and mass tourism can resume, tickets for the Pompeii ruins will also include access to the museum. For more on Italy, consider:

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