Besides an Olympian and two Orthodox patriarchs, Kallimasia on the island of Chios also boasts a small treasure in the basement of its middle school.
Around 20 years ago, the village school’s principal at the time, Yiannis Kolliaros, started collecting objects that no longer had practical use – like old tools, documents, furniture, machines, utensils, ceramics – but are part of the area’s history. This collection led to the Kallimasia Folk Museum, dedicated to the traditional occupations of Chios from the Middle Ages to the mid-20th century.
“I wrote the names of the donors on the first lot of objects I amassed. Once people started seeing the names written down, they came forth with more stuff and within two years, I had around 2,000 objects,” says Kolliaros. “Now we have some 6,000 objects related to 30-40 traditional occupations. It is the largest collection of folk history in Greece,” he adds.
Determined to create a true representation of a typical Chios village, Kolliaros and a team of volunteers secured funding from public and private sources and got to work. “We built rooms with arches in the traditional manner. First, the olive press and the ouzo distillery, then the cobbler’s worskshop, the tailor’s and the smith’s.”
Kolliaros is also responsible for assembling and managing the displays. Unable to reject donations even if he already has them, surplus objects have ended up in smaller museums on the island or in an old house he owns.
The Kallimasia Folk Museum is now owned by the municipal authority, which pays the salaries of two employees who run it every afternoon except Sundays, and operation costs are covered generous donations from locals. “That people love this museum is very important,” says Kolliaros.
In the winter, visitors are mostly limited to school groups, but the summer is a different story. “People come from all over the world. We’ve already filled three entire guest books! Admission is free because I believe culture shouldn’t have a price,” he adds.
The municipality intends to move the museum to a larger, more suitable space, as the 550 square meter school basement is simply too small.
Plans to create an open-air mock village on a plot just outside the village, moreover, have stalled for lack of funds, but Kolliaros has no intention of abandoning the project.
Kolliaros’s interests are not limited to folk history either, as he is responsible for another museum in the village dedicated to the area’s flora and fauna.