The Acropolis Museum
In June 2009 Athens gained a valuable addition to its cultural spaces – the €130m New Acropolis Museum which, lying in the shadow of the Acropolis, brings together for the first time all the Parthenon relics in vast and airy exhibition spaces.
The museum had been a long time in the planning. For more than 30 years there had been talk of replacing the old Acropolis Museum – a cramped partly-underground space beside the Parthenon – with a new one that would be a better showcase for the archaic, classical and Hellenistic relics that had come to light over years of excavations on what the Greeks call the Sacred Rock.
There was another reason as well. Since the early 1980s many Greeks had been doing a slow burn over the presence of the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum in London. These marbles had formed part of a sculpted frieze running around the Parthenon. Now Greece wants them back. The argument has been reinforced by the New Acropolis Museum, which the Greeks say answers the British Museum’s assertion that the Elgin Marbles (which the Greeks prefer to call the Parthenon Marbles) would have nowhere to be adequately housed in Athens. Arguments continue to rage on both sides. But, in hopes of a day when the Marbles will see the blue skies of Greece again, the museum’s third and top floor has been reserved for them. So that the gallery won’t be completely empty, plaster casts of the Marbles have been arranged around the perimeter, interspersed with some of the original Parthenon frieze panels that remained.
Whether the Marbles return or not, the New Acropolis Museum is certainly worth a visit. It has the shape of a flattened concrete box, over which the top floor is set at an angle of 23 degrees from the rest of the building so as to be exactly parallel with the Parthenon, a few hundred yards away across Dionysiou Areopagitou Street and a couple of hundred feet higher.
The delicate and painstaking task of transferring the priceless statuary from the old Acropolis museum to the new began in October 2007. Three cranes placed at strategic intervals on the north slope of the Acropolis gingerly ferried the well-packed relics a few hundred feet over Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, lowering them directly into the new museum. Each one would take literally hours to inch its way over the distance. Observes may differ over the coldly functional glass and concrete structure, designed by Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi and erected over the remains of archaic and even Neolithic settlements. In fact, the few square miles southeast of the Acropolis, now called the Makriyanni district, is probably the oldest continuously inhabited urban area in Europe, going back perhaps 4,000 years.
In architecture, as in all the arts, de gustibus non disputandum – tastes differ. It’s the 150,000 square feet of the inside of the museum that counts. A ramp with a partly-transparent floor leads up to the Archaic Hall featuring pieces from the pre-classical temples atop the Acropolis that were destroyed by the Persians in 480BC, to make way for the Parthenon itself a few decades later. There are also the best examples of the archaic statues of the korai and kouroi, the charming, stylized statues of maidens and youths (including the alluring “Sphinx-Eyed Kore” of about 500BC) and dozens of geometric pots.
Arriving at the classical era, the sculpture becomes more sophisticated and realistic, reflecting the astounding rise in the power and prosperity of Athens in the 5th century BC. The visitor, though, had better be prepared for a shock on the third floor landing. Most of the floor is actually transparent, so if you chance to look down you find yourself peering down fifty feet or more into the foundations of the oldest homes in Athens.
For more Information: 15 Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, 11742, Athens. Tel: +30 210 9000900.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – Website: www.theacropolismuseum.gr
The Acropolis Museum Permanent Exhibitions
The Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis
The Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis houses finds from the sanctuaries that were founded on the slopes of the Acropolis, as well as objects that Athenians used in everyday life from all historic periods.
The Archaic Gallery
In the Archaic Gallery, for the first time, visitors have the opportunity to view exhibits from all sides as three-dimensional exhibits. With the benefit of the changing natural light, visitors can discern and discover the delicate surface variations of sculptures and select the vantage point from which to observe the exhibits.
The Parthenon Gallery
In the centre of the Parthenon Gallery on the 3rd floor, the visitor can observe a video presentation about the Parthenon and the sculptural decoration of the monument. In the same area are presented ancient marble inscriptions recording detailed cost records of the construction of the Parthenon and the statue of Athena Parthenos.
The installation of the frieze of the Parthenon on the rectangular cement core that has exactly the same dimensions as the cella of the Parthenon enables a comprehensive viewing of the details of the frieze, as one takes the perimetric walk of the Gallery.
Propylaia, Athena Nike, Erechtheion
For the first time ever, it is possible to view the coffered ceiling of the Propylaia and the sculptures from the parapet of the temple of Athena Nike, and finally, the Caryatids – or Korai of the Erechtheion at close proximity on the balcony overlooking the Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis. The main monuments that constitute the Classical Acropolis are the Propylaia, the temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion.
From the 5th c. BC to the 5th c. AD
The exhibition concludes at the north side of the first floor gallery. Reliefs of Athenian decrees, impressive portraits, Roman copies of classical masterpieces and depictions of philosophers and historical figures are the exhibits covering the period from the 5th century BC to the 5th century AD. These collections of the Museum include the Sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia, the votives of the Classical and Hellenistic Periods and the votives of the Roman Period.
Text by John Carr. Photos by Magazine Greece and www.theacropolismuseum.gr
Here are a few featured museums from all around Greece.
For a complete list of all the museums in Greece, including opening hours, entrance tickets and their permanent exhibitions please visit www.culture.gr
National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum is the largest museum in Greece and one of the world’s great museums. Although its original purpose was to secure all the finds from the nineteenth century excavations in and around Athens, it gradually became the central National Archaeological Museum and was enriched with finds from all over Greece. Its abundant collections, with more than 20,000 exhibits, provide a panorama of Greek civilization from the beginnings of Prehistory to Late Antiquity.
For more Information:
44 Patission St., Athens, Greece. Tel: +30 210 8217724, Email: email@example.com
Museum of Byzantine Culture
The Museum of Byzantine Culture aims in presenting various aspects of life during the byzantine and post-byzantine periods: art, ideology, social structure and religion, as well as how historical changes and the political situation were affecting people’ s everyday life.
For more Information:
2 Stratou Avenue, Τ.Κ. 54013, Thessaloniki, Greece
Tel: +30 2310 868570, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Building for the protection of the royal tombs of Vergina
A sense of awe in the face of death, the splendours of regal glory, the emotions stirred by the tragic finale of the royal house of the Temenides, are all associated with the site of the royal tombs at Aigai. This conception dictated the scenario; the basic settings were guided by the principle that only the ancient artifacts should be lit up and warm in a dark neutral setting. The visitor descending into the underground area of the tombs begins his tour with a reconstruction of the Great Mound, the monument that originally marked the site of the Royal Tombs and which no longer exists.
For more Information:
59031, Vergina, Prefecture of Imathia. Tel: +30 23310 92347, Email: email@example.com
The Epigraphical Museum is unique in Greece and the largest of its kind in the world. It safeguards 13,510, mostly Greek, inscriptions, which cover the period from early historical times to the Late Roman period, primarily in Greece.
For more Information:
1 Tositsa Str., Τ.Κ. 10682, Athens, Attiki. Tel: +30 210 8232950, +30 210 8217637,
Fax: +30 210 8225733, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Herakleion Archaeological Museum
The Herakleion Archaeological Museum is one of the largest and most important museums in Greece, and among the most important museums in Europe. It houses representative artefacts from all the periods of Cretan prehistory and history, covering a chronological span of over 5,500 years from the Neolithic period to Roman times. The singularly important Minoan collection contains unique examples of Minoan art, many of them true masterpieces. The Herakleion Museum is rightly considered as the museum of Minoan culture par excellence worldwide.
For more Information:
Xanthoudidou St. and Xatzidaki, Τ.Κ. 71202, Herakleion (Prefecture of Iraklio)
Tel: +30 2810 279086, 2810 279000, Email: email@example.com
Hellenic Ministry of Culture: Tel. +30 2108201100. Websites: www.culture.gr & www.yppo.gr
Sources: www.culture.gr, www.namuseum.gr, www.museumsyndicate.com, www.mbp.gr