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Dueling Pompeii exhibits in Mobile, Birmingham

The Associated Press

Can the ruins of Pompeii be discovered twice in Alabama in the same year?

The Birmingham Museum of Art and the Gulf Coast Exploreum in Mobile hope so.

Both have exhibitions this year on the ancient city of the Roman Empire that was destroyed by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. and rediscovered in the 18th century.

The exhibit "A Day in Pompeii" opened last week at the Exploreum and runs through June 3. "Pompeii: Tales of an Eruption" runs at the Birmingham Museum from Oct. 14 through Jan. 27.

"Of course, there is a concern that some people might only want to see one of them," Birmingham Museum director Gail Andrews said. "But it could affect attendance the other way, too. I am hoping the publicity surrounding the two exhibitions will drive up attendance for both of us.

"I think both shows will do really well."

Michael Sullivan, executive director of the Exploreum, said he also feels both may do well — but not as well as they would have if the Italian governmental agency responsible for the archaeological site had opted for just one exhibit this year.

"We are not happy that they have given exhibits on Pompeii to two venues in the state of Alabama," he told the Montgomery Advertiser in a story Monday.

He said a group from the Exploreum had been in Pompeii about a week before they found out about the Birmingham exhibit.

"At first, we really thought we'd been had," Sullivan said. "When we called them up and said 'How could you do two shows on Pompeii in the same state?' they said, 'Oh, but they are different shows,' and seemed relatively unconcerned.

"The good news is that they are very different exhibitions, and we have tried to ensure that they are even more different."

While both feature artifacts from Pompeii, the Exploreum, a science museum, uses a virtual reality tour on what it was like to live — and die — in the ancient Roman city, with a wide range of information on what happened and how it was brought back to life.

Andrews said the Birmingham Museum of Art exhibit will focus more on the art and artifacts of Pompeii and what they tell about the people of that time and place.

The Exploreum is seeking to draw visitors from the Gulf Coast and southern part of Alabama, while the Birmingham museum hopes to attract people from Atlanta and Columbus, Ga., and the northern part of the state.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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