Preserving Pompeii with research

The »Pompeii Sustainable Preservation Project«

For over 250 years, Pompeii has been a magnet for people from all over the world who are fascinated by our classical heritage. Every year some three million tourists flock to the ancient world’s largest continuous urban ruins. Restoration has been taking place ever since excavations began on the ancient city. Now leading European research institutions have undertaken a fundraising initiative called the Pompeii Sustainable Preservation Project, whose goal is to secure the site’s long-term future and apply the knowledge gained along the way to the preservation of other ancient sites worldwide.

The Pompeii Sustainable Preservation Project is led by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Technische Universität München, and the Special Superintendence for the Archaeological Heritage of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae. The goal of this major international project is to combine measures to protect Pompeii with leading-edge scientific and humanities research and the training of archeologists, restorers, and a new generation of scientists in a center for conservation studies. For now, the project has been designed to run for ten years. Initial preparatory work and analyses have been underway since March 2014. Funding is to come from donations, with around ten million euros required to carry out the planned work.

Restoration and conservation research

The project was the brainchild of the restorer and building physicist Dr. Ralf Kilian and the archeologist Dr. Albrecht Matthaei from the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP, who participated in restoration work at Pompeii as students. Deeply impressed by the scale of the excavation site and the wonderful variety of buildings there – with their exquisite stuccowork and colorful murals – the two young scientists dreamed up the concept of an academy for restoration and conservation research where students from different scientific disciplines would regularly carry out research and restoration work and exchange ideas. Pompeii struck them as the ideal place for a research and training center. Surrounded by other historical sites such as Herculaneum, Stabiae, and Oplontis, which were also buried when Vesuvius erupted, Pompeii is located in a region with an extremely high density of ancient sites.

UNESCO World Heritage

A unique record of human history, Pompeii enjoys UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Like a snapshot in time, the excavation site shows how the inhabitants of this vibrant town of merchants and traders lived. Buried under debris and ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79, the forgotten city was suspended in a deep sleep for centuries. Initial archeological excavations began in the mid 18th century and continued right up to the early 1980s. Some 44 hectares have been uncovered, roughly two-thirds of the ancient city.

The excavated houses and walls have been restored many times over the years, often in the form of partial reconstruction or the installation of protective roofing of various designs. However, these efforts have been unable to halt moisture damage, which causes once colorful frescoes to fade and ancient stucco to crumble, and threatens the stability of whole buildings.

In 2012, the Italian government launched the Great Pompeii Project (Grande Progetto Pompei), and the European Union has awarded funding to this initiative to arrest the deterioration of Pompeii by the end of 2015. The Special Superintendence for the Archaeological Heritage of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae is overseeing the urgent restoration work in an exemplary manner. Emergency measures have been taken to consolidate walls that were in danger of collapsing, and protective roofing and drains have been installed to cope with rainwater. Comprehensive mapping of the site to record all objects and their damage has also just been completed.

Fundraising initiative

At the same time, the Pompeii Sustainable Preservation Project aims to introduce know-how and innovative ideas from applied research in fields such as materials science and building physics to the restoration of Pompeii.

Sponsors can make a fundamental contribution to the preservation of this unique World Heritage Site while ensuring that the conservation work needed to preserve this cultural monument is also an investment in the future.


Albrecht  Matthaei

Contact Press / Media

Dr. Albrecht Matthaei

Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics
Fraunhoferstr. 10
83626  Valley, Germany

Mobile +49 176 83588772

Ralf  Kilian

Contact Press / Media

Dr. Ralf Kilian

Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics
Fraunhoferstr. 10
83626  Valley, Germany

Phone +49 8024 643-285