In no other museum of the country can one witness such joy. Children are whispering like little birds in front of the video that is showing the “Kores,” which were projected on housing blocks during the museum’s opening in 2009. Their parents seem truly touched while they watch how pieces of the Sacred Rock were transferred to their new modern “home.” Last but not least, everyone is impressed by the way the Karyatides are “treated” against pollutants. These amazing sculptures, under the sun’s light, let people observe their little details, in order to make them realize that the ancient world was not simple, but colorful and complex.
There are crowds of people everywhere. There are people at the gift shop, where one can find a well-written guide of the museum, small objects, and the souvenirs which no one can resist; like jewelry made by compressed paper. There are also many people at the greatly sought after restaurant, where one may enjoy a coffee for just 1.5 Euros or an expensive bottle of wine for 26.5 Euros.
Five years after the museum’s opening ceremony in 2009, more than 6.5 million people have visited, according to the museum’s chairman, Dimitris Pantermalis. From 2012-2013 there was a recession, but now the “Acropolis Museum attracts more than 4,000 visitors per day!” The guards of the museum wear a uniform, the same as the carers-archaeologists, and they are polite, direct, and always vigilant. Although the management model used in the museum has been commented on in various ways, it is completely functional with 200 people in its personnel and is self-sufficient “thanks to its income from ticket purchases, the gift shop, and restaurant. Annual operation of the museum costs 7 million Euros and its income is more or less as much as its expenses.”
Budget cuts (around 3 million Euros) resulted in the postponement of the excavations, which are located in the basement, opening to the public, but Mr. Pantermalis insists on not raising the ticket price, despite the fact that everybody says that it is too low. “The museum was financed by tax-payers. We want people to come here again and again.”
New Digital Applications
There were days that Mr. Pantermalis was forced to attend court hearings because of the many neighbors that wanted to fight the museum’s project, but those days are finally over. “It is one of the main characteristics of human history – the transition from outrage to acclaim. One needs to be restrained in both situations. This project was our duty as a country, to those people who created all this cultural wealth during the 5th century.”
For the Acropolis Museum’s birthday on the 20th of June, a jazz music night is going to be organized. At that event people will be able to get to know the new digital applications that are available to help the visitors understand the exhibits.
The “Kori” is missing these days – the sculpture is on a “trip” to Italy and then it will be transferred to Canada for an exhibition. Thanks to an application, people will learn many interesting details regarding that sculpture. “The visitor doesn’t need to spend endless hours in the museum. Only a couple of hours are required to obtain the right information.”
The excavation site, although it is ready, is one of the museum’s main abeyances. “It may open for the public in less than a couple of years, as there is still the Excavation Museum and its exhibits to be completed.” The entrance of the site will be in the northern side of the museum and the visitors will be able to walk along the ancient road while they observe the buildings of the intertemporal district. At the same time, a suspended platform will lead people very close to all these unique vestiges. “It used to be quarters for middle class citizens and an artistic neighborhood that dates from the Classical Period until the early Byzantine Period.”
As far as the new periodic exhibitions are concerned, Mr. Pantermalis states, “The main exhibits have not exhausted their interest, so I am obliged to keep investing in them.” His aim is to transform the showroom of the archaic exhibits into a room where one may witness the sculpture’s variegation. “Besides, we have a lot of material.”
Many museums abroad have become much more daring in order to ensure they attract more visitors, “Trailblazing also needs control,” he warns. “One has to keep the balance, just like the digital applications. Several representatives of Haute Couture have expressed their interest in exhibiting pieces of their work, which are inspired by the museums showpieces,” but Mr. Pantermalis has refused. The reason why he did that was because of one basic rule he has: “whatever takes place here has to assist the museum’s main subject.” Everybody acknowledges that Acropolis Museum in very visitor-friendly. What this museum has achieved is reigniting the people’s interest regarding the Classical and Archaic Period, and at the same time it has moved many sculptures away from the city’s pollutants and offered them a place where they are specially lighted and secured.
“We tried to explain to the world that there are sources of the world history in the museum. The imitation tendency of the Hellenistic Roman Period until Renaissance and the European Classical Period twisted the meaning of what is considered as classic. Classic was wrongly connected with something rigid that is totally incompatible with the realities of today. A Classical Period that doesn’t include the element of life and vibrancy is not classical at all. Therefore, encouraging people to explore the original pieces and all these Classical Period’s works of art, is a contribution to the world.”
How will the Sculptures return from the British Museum?
“The issue concerning the return of the Parthenon Marbles is huge and political. We keep people’s interest by showing the disadvantages of this dismemberment and what the result will be after they are finally restored,” Mr. Pantermalis believes. “For an argument that has lasted for more than 200 years, it is essential to explain that it is worth it. We believe that this is the best way to influence the public opinion. Historically, it is the correct way to fight for something. The argument regarding the property of the Marbles jeopardizes the whole case. The matter is the integrity of the scattered Sculptures.”
Which is the most important Museum in the city you live and why?
The original article, published in Greek, can be found here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.