Since the launch of the project, the Herculaneum Conservation Project team had recognized the need to identify strategies and solutions to ensure the site’s long-term conservation, but only by understanding what happened at Herculaneum from the 1970s to the 1990s was it possible to find the right approaches. Indeed, following Amedeo Maiuri’s large-scale excavation campaigns (he retired at the beginning of the 1960s), the archaeological site began a period of gradual and exponential decay. This was caused by various factors, but primarily because the system of on-going maintenance, previously carried out by a permanent team of Soprintendenza workmen, was gradually dismantled. Site management almost came to a halt due to substantial changes to the public administration, both at national and local levels, with funding increasingly used for large one-off projects and increasingly less available for general management needs (including maintenance). In parallel tourism shifted from an elite activity to the type of mass tourism that is seen today. To understand further the factors which brought about this unsustainable situation click here.
To avoid returning to this situation, the Herculaneum Conservation Project is operating on various levels and in different directions. On one hand, conservation and maintenance works are planned so that they can be easily carried out by the Soprintendenza in the future (tender processes, works supervision, works documentation, etc.) and in such a way that they can also carry out routine maintenance in the long-term. The use of resources is crucial in this context and one of the current aims of the Herculaneum Conservation Project is to identify the minimum levels of resources that need to be invested in site management annually in order to avoid going back to the previous poor conservation conditions.
In addition, a lot of emphasis is also being given today to research into alternative resources which could be used to support the archaeological site. For example, the Herculaneum Conservation Project has been able to create a network of external partners (Italian and international universities and research institutes) who offer scientific support for the conservation work completely free of charge. Thanks to this approach increased attention is being given to safeguarding the site, as well as raising greater international awareness about Herculaneum.
Moreover, the Herculaneum Conservation Project has invested heavily in the creation of a GIS database as a tool for gathering documentation and informing works programming because it can help define priorities for works and assess where to invest the available resources. Finally, the outreach activities undertaken by the Herculaneum Conservation Project and the Herculaneum Centre, such as partnerships with the local authorities and community groups are key for the archaeological site’s long-term sustainability.