House of Gladiators in Pompeii collapses

Italian Archaeologists are enraged at Saturday’s collapse of the House of Gladiators in Pompeii. The 40 ft. wide structure had recently undergone reconstruction work on its roof, which might have contributed to its total collapse during heavy rains early on Saturday morning. An even greater culprit may turn out to be the Italian Arts Ministry. The ministry’s secretary general, Roberto Cecchi, admitted the building hasn’t had routine maintenance for more 50 years.

Now archaeologists, environmentalists, and conservationists are calling for the arts minister to resign and are demanding an investigation.

The Schola Armaturarum was buried like the rest of Pompeii when the nearby Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. There is some debate about the building’s original use, with archaeologists unsure if it was a school, an armory, or something else. A series of frescos of winged Victories bearing weapons has led many researchers to draw the conclusion that the building was reserved for gladiators. Pompeii receives millions of visitors every year and while the building wasn’t open to the public, it was next to a walkway. If the collapse had happened during opening hours, archaeologists warn, people could have been injured or killed.

State prosecutors are already investigating how funding for the site has been used and if there has been any Mafia involvement. Huge cuts to arts and culture funding has prompted a Italian museum strike on November 12.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Italian museums on strike November 12

If you’re going to be in Italy on November 12, you might want to sit at a cafe and order an extra espresso, because many of the tourist sights will be closed.

Workers at museums and archaeological sites across the country plan to shut their doors on November 12 to protest massive budget cuts to arts and culture programming to the tune of 58 million euros ($82.02 million) annually in 2011 and 2012. The cuts were approved by the national government this summer.

Actually, when you factor in all the cuts to local government, which of course got passed on to arts and culture funding, the figure is more like 1.1 billion euros ($1.5 billion) over the next two years.

The strike will also include other public institutions such as theatres and libraries. It’s unclear at this stage how many will participate, but considering recent large protests in places like Greece and France over austerity measures, Italy’s may be a big one.

[Photo of the statue Laocoön and His Sons in the Vatican Museum courtesy Damon Green via Gadling’s flickr pool. Chances are the Vatican Museum will remain open because it’s actually in another country!]

Recession kills Chapel Hill Museum, threatens others

The municipal museum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is the latest victim of the recession. It closed its doors on Sunday after 14 years in operation. The town council had only earmarked $20,000 for the museum in the 2011 budget, far short of the $49,000 it needed to stay open.

The Chapel Hill Museum explored the history and culture of this prosperous university town with displays on early settlers, desegregation, works from local artists, and a popular fire engine from 1914. More than 15,000 people visited the museum every year and it was a regular destination for school groups.

With budgets getting cut across the country, the Chapel Hill Museum may be the canary in the coal mine for cultural organizations. The Battleship New Jersey was recently saved from a budget cut, but a nearby children’s garden had to reduce its hours after getting less funding than it needed. Numerous parks and historic sites in New York also face closure.

Photo courtesy Siera Heavner via Wikimedia Commons.