Come for the volcano, stay for the fun. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) recently opened their latest installation, Pompeii: The Exhibit. You might not think of ancient Rome as a way to keep your kids entertained, but that’s exactly what this exhibit will do. Starting with a short movie focused on the infamous Mount Vesuvius, you and your kids will be taken on an epic Roman adventure. Read on to find out more.

photo: Bess Dwyer

Introducing Pompeii
The tour starts off with the introductory video that describes Pompeii before the eruption: a Roman city that lived cozily next to Mount Vesuvius. The citizens had no idea that the mountain was a volcano, so when it blew, it took the city by surprise—and buried it in 13 – 25 feet of ash that managed to preserve the it in a truly unique way.

After the video, the doors open up to a whole different world.

What Your Kids Will Love
Why will the kiddos care about this? Because they will get a chance to see what life was like for people in 79 A.D., and they will be shocked at how similar life was back then compared to now. Ask your kids to point out items they recognize—chances are, you and your children will be surprised at how many there are!

OMSI has also worked its magic and added some additional interactive aspects to the displays, like a chance to build roman arches or recreate the famous mosaics that proliferated the city. The Museum also has pocket demonstrations and cart demonstrations throughout the day, so your kids can get even more hands on with the artifacts.


photo: Bess Dwyer

The Exhibit
The exhibit is full of fascinating artifacts, (Note: some of which are so fragile that strollers aren’t allowed inside.) The subject matter may be sensitive for some young scientists, so we suggest that you take a look at some of the previews online in advance to get a sense of what is and is not appropriate for your particular young ones before you go. Your kids will find most of the artifacts mesmerizing and some of them even provide great teachable parenting moments like bodies that were encased in ash laying near jewelry and gold treasures. A great reminder to us all that not all of our personal belongings are worth going back for when there’s an emergency.

Near the end of the exhibit, you’ll get a chance to experience captivating video (with extra cool special effects!) that shows what the day of the eruption probably looked like. That video alone will keep your kids talking about their trip to the museum for weeks to come.

photo: OMSI

A Volcano Lesson
Possibly the best learning spot comes at the end of the exhibit, in the Volcanology Field Office. Here, your kiddos will get the opportunity to learn about how Mount Vesuvius is similar to the volcanoes that surround us here in Portland. There are geological samples, including ash from Mt. St. Helens, and 3D sculptures of local volcanoes. But your young explorers might just have the most fun with the “spider” — a volcanology tool that records just about everything related to eruptions and related earthquakes. Your littles can even try jumping around to see if they can make the earth move!

Keep looking throughout the museum, and you’ll see that the Pompeii connections don’t end in the field office. There are tie-ins throughout the museum, like the experiment in the chemistry lab explaining how even the air changes when a volcano blows its lid.

photo: OMSI

This exhibit is a great way for your kids (and you) to learn more about life in Roman times, and offers a perfect opportunity to tell them about Mt. St. Helens and our own local PNW ring of fire.

1945 SE Water Ave.
Dates: Through Oct 22
Cost: OMSI Members: Adults $16; Youth (ages 3-13) $10; Seniors (ages 63+) $12
Non-members: Adults $26; Youth (ages 3-13) $17; Seniors (ages 63+) $22

What are your family’s favorite stories about the local volcanoes? Share them with us in the comments below. 

—Bess Dwyer