LIFE

The Acropolis Museum: A reintroduction

By Iota Sykka

At 11 a.m. on Thursday, as the country was aboil with developing news on the political front, so was the area connecting Amalias Avenue with Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, as the double-parked tour coaches waiting for their passengers to come out of the Acropolis Museum were hiding the traffic lights.

The entire pedestrian area was in a state of absolute Greek pandemonium. The sightseeing train was packed with visitors, as were the nearby cafes next to the souvenir shops selling poor-quality copies of treasured antiquities. Street musicians contributed to the noise as well, while drivers flouted the no-car law up and down the pedestrianized walkway. Two years ago, when the city was feverish with the museum?s inauguration, such a state of affairs would have been unthinkable.

On Monday, the new Acropolis Museum is celebrating its two-year anniversary. The figures indicate that fewer visitors went to the museum in its second year (1,309,859) compared to its inaugural year, when it drew 2 million people. There is an extra thorn here, and that is the issue of free tickets. Overall, the museum has fared well in comparison with others in the capital, but if one considers that 40 percent of its tickets are free, a new problem arises.

The president of the museum?s administrative board, Dimitris Pandermalis, wants to address the issue, even though he has kept the price of tickets at 5 euros, and is counting on the revenues of the museum?s gift shops, cafe and restaurant (since last fall, revenues from the latter have been going into the museum?s till). The Acropolis Museum employs 200 members of staff and needs about 4 to 5 million euros a year to cover costs. Another snag is the fact that the museum is still awaiting a presidential decree which will solve the issue of the lack of a director. The matter is still in the hands of the Council of State, the country?s highest administrative court. However, once that is cleared up it will embark on a fresh round of visits to various ministries.

?The museum is reintroducing itself,? said Pandermalis, who has also been at the receiving end of criticism regarding the presentation of a number of exhibits. The visiting routes in some exhibition areas have been revamped while previously unseen artworks are going on display and others are being moved to more suitable spots. In the Parthenon Hall, the plaster frames of five metopes have been replaced by transparent plexiglass cases. Meanwhile, explanatory signs have been enriched and the staff are being trained to handle difficult visitors and medical incidents.

The Acropolis Museum is making an effort to get to know its audience better and is recording its visitor profiles. More importantly, it has embarked on a series of collaborations with universities and institutions. One of the most impressive projects is a collaboration with the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and Geonalysis SA for the digitalizing and reproduction of the Parthenon frieze. This involves three-dimensional scanning of the sculptures and their reunification inside the museum. Other projects include a museum tour guide program using mobile phones, a program carried out in collaboration with five institutions.

Monday?s two-year anniversary will be celebrated with a music event. The Symphony Orchestra of the City of Athens will perform in the courtyard of the museum at 9 p.m. Meanwhile, ornaments which once adorned the Parthenon will be incorporated into the festivities.

The museum will offer visitors a chance to admire a number of original pieces from the corner ornaments which decorate the tip of the two pediments. They can also learn the details of a unique piece of jewelry which has been restored and find out how the artist transported and transformed his nature-inspired idea through the art of marble carving. Meanwhile, members of the museum?s staff will answer visitors? questions and the museum will stay open until midnight.

Leaving behind the building erected by Swiss-born architect Bernard Tschumi in collaboration with Greek architect Michael Fotiadis the other day, everything seemed in place for the upcoming celebration. Standing on a pedestal, an owl could be seen at the museum entrance, while members of staff murmured that the area is welcoming the wise birds once again.

Meanwhile, beneath the entrance area, the excavation site is not going to open to the public before the end of the year as originally announced. Nevertheless, the area appears to inpire the public as a number of visitors throw 20 cent coins, regardless of the fact there is no water.

For more information, visit www.theacropolismuseum.gr.

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