I am currently residing in Rome, where archaeology and other uses of the past are visible on every street corner. The city is always bustling with tourists, and recently I followed the hordes into the Disney Store on the Corso. It was an astoundingly archaeological experience, as the store incorporates bits and pieces of Rome’s history and archaeology into its design.
But the store offers more than out-of-control post-modernism. It has several site-specific references and conjures up Disneyfied images of imperial Rome: Daisy Duck as Cleopatra, Donald Duck as Augustus, etc. Fragments of an ‘ancient’ inscription honouring the emperor ‘Topolino’ (Mickey Mouse in Italian, ‘the little mouse’) are built into the walls. A sign even announces that we are in a museo della antichitÃ rather than a corporate store.
The store also emulates the archaeology museum in other ways. A recurring theme throughout the store is the ‘caryatid’ column in the form of the Disney character Goofy, and a museum-style interpretative label explains their significance:
These caryatids, dating from the reign of Topolino IV, recall the famous caryatids of the Erechtheion on the Athenian Acropolis and exemplify the high degree of sophistication achieved during this period.
Elsewhere, a ‘mosaic’ with Pluto can be found on the store’s floor. It is inscribed CAVE CANEM – beware of the dog! It is one of the most potent archaeological pastiches in the store, and the original from the House of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii will be well-known to many tourists (even if the Disney version also shows a certain unfamiliarity with Latin). Its fragmentary state gives additional credence to the emulation of an archaeological artefact.
No visit to Rome is complete without a visit to the Forum or one of the city’s other major archaeological sites, but maybe next time, if you have the chance, consider visiting the Disney Store on the Corso for an alternative take on the Roman past and its continuing influence on the present.