Maria Katsounaki MARIA KATSOUNAKI

Bringing change to culture

COMMENT

TAGS: Culture, Politics

“Revenues from archaeological sites continue, unfortunately, to be extremely limited,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday during a visit to the Culture Ministry in Athens.

“We see the Culture Ministry not just as a guardian of our heritage but also as a ministry that can contribute to growth,” he added, in an apparent bid to underscore the lack of progress and change, while also stressing the need for the ministry to make the “best possible use” of its resources.

Revenues from Greece’s archaeological sites and from their gift shops remain low as a result of the fact that the obvious steps have not been taken to improve the situation.

Culture Minister Lina Mendoni recently said that 90 percent of their revenues come from admission tickets, when in other countries, gift shops and services such as cafes, bars, restaurants etc account for 80 percent of revenues for museums and archaeological sites.

In the not-so-distant past, in 2010, then culture minister Pavlos Geroulanos had ordered a survey and assessment of the services at the country’s archaeological sites and museums.

What the survey found was that not a single one of those 176 locations were up to standard. Their shortfalls ranged from the absence of lavatories and water for visitors to drink, to failure to ensure wheelchair accessibility, as well as not providing exhibit information in both Greek and English, not having catalogues or employing an antiquated ticketing system.

What happened to the overhaul that was announced nine years ago? And even before that, why hadn’t anything been done after all the criticism about the state of neglect at many important archaeological sites in 2004, when Athens was hosting the Olympic Games? We rushed to fixed up the front of our house while ignoring the signs of rot on the inside.

To be fair, some moves have been made since then, but even the best intentions tend to be crushed by the change-resistant machine of the civil service.

Accustomed to clientelism, favoritism and opportunism, the deep state does everything in its power to halt efforts to utilize anything in the best possible way, as red tape has become the most effective – and legal – way to stop progress.

The year 2021 is indeed a “first-class opportunity” to turn things around in the sphere of culture, as the prime minister said, but not just for “an outward- and forward-looking Greece,” but also for a Greece that doesn’t equate governments with failed promises.

Online