– Herculaneum rescued by an American –
Thanks to an American patron, the ruins of Herculaneum in Naples are safe.
More than 41,000 hectares of ruins buried by Vesuvius attract about 31,000 tourists a year, an alternative to the nearby ruins of Pompeii which in recent times have not gotten the same attention, despite collapse and water infiltration, because of the inactivity of the institutions
Until a few years ago, the ancient ruins of Herculaneum were in poor condition, despite the fact that unlike almost all other archaeological sites, they show architectural features and original furnishings as well as the magma covered them in 79 AD.
In 2000, David W. Packard, the heir of the same name IT empire in Palo Alto, he confided to his friend Andrew Wallace Hadrill, former director of the British School at Rome, his interest in financing the preservation of the old Herculaneum. Through his foundation, “The Packard Humanities Institute,” his passion for Greek and Latin literature goes back, deciding to focus on archeology. Therefore, Hadrill accompanies him in Herculaneum site, where the superintendent of the Archaeological Heritage of Naples showed him a plan of some urgent attention. Mr. Packard realized that the site needed a comprehensive conservation plan and for this was born the “Herculaneum Conservation Project,” in cooperation with the Packard Humanities Institute, the Superintendent and with the support of the British School.
The foundation provided EUR 16 million, and work began. To date, 80% of the ancient Herculaneum’s buildings has been equipped with covers, the entire estate was put on safety, rainwater has been channeled, the Roman sewer system has been restored, the frescoes and mosaics have been protected, with a dozen of restored houses ready to be visited.
At the entrance of the site, a sign says, “What we are doing,” pointing out the work carried out, but this sign with no logo, is the only place where Packard and his sustained effort are mentioned. The City of Herculaneum conferred honorary citizenship to David Woodley because of his philanthropic foundation and interest in Herculaneum.
David does not intend to abandon Herculaneum where five building sites are still open, dealing with restoration and maintenance, and where new techniques are experimented. Every 15 days David receives in California a technical report on the activities carried out and once a year he comes here, to see by himself, that everything continues according to plan.
The last time, when he came a month ago, Packard confided his wish to make more accessible “Villa of the Papyri.” It is the home of Julius Caesar’s father in which was found a library with 2,000 carbonized papyrus and nearly hundred sculptures, and that the oil magnate Paul Getty fell in love to the point of build it, as it was, on the hills of Santa Monica, in 1968, where today stands the Getty Museum.
Not the same fate has befallen the twin city of Pompeii, when during the last Berlusconi government were allocated 80 million of public funds for the recovery, and they has been wasted without achieving any useful objective.