CULTURE

From Dedeagatch to Alexandroupoli

Alexandroupoli is a special case among Greek cities. It is a relatively young city — its first port was created in the 1860s when the small village began developing frantically, attracting a wave of new settlers in the process — and although its previous name, Dedeagatch, recalled its multiethnic Ottoman past, the city developed into a typical modern Greek urban center. Without the minarets and Muslim quarters of Xanthi and Komotini, Alexandroupoli was strictly Christian, providing a platform for the European ambitions of Russian engineers who came up with the city?s first urban plan at the time of the nine-month occupation during the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish war.

This exciting story, which remains largely unknown to most Greeks, is narrated at the Alexandroupoli Historical Museum. This is not the case of yet another state museum, but a local community initiative, the brainchild of the Evros Antiquity Lovers and Cultural Heritage Association. It is housed in a 1995 construction on land conceded by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The museum?s permanent exhibition was inaugurated on June 4.

The project was concluded following an agreement between the Municipality of Alexandroupoli, the Evros Prefecture and the Rhodope-Evros Super-Prefecture. The museum?s displays explore the city?s archaeological sites, its urban development and its relationship with the railway and the port as well as its urban and architectural identity. Over the last few years, the museum?s collection has mainly been enriched through the donation of the Eleni Philippidou collection, which includes traditional Sarakatsani costumes.

The exhibition unfolds through a contemporary museum approach, making use of composed images and re-enactment material, interactive audiovisual media and screenings, as well as a collection of objects stemming from donations of archival material by collectors and local organizations. Here is an initiative which deserves to find followers in other cities and for other cities to find inspiration in.