Cultural treasures shine again

It all looks clean and new. The 40 kouros statues, the 1,000 sculptures, the Mycenaean gold, the Cycladic statuettes, even the sculpted composition of Aphrodite, Pan and Eros, which has undergone partial restoration. Almost all the exhibits have received the touch of conservators, who have carefully removed traces of pollution from over 40 decades. Fourteen thousand sculptures as well as 70,000 bronze and gold items were stored in boxes, yet about 8,500 of those are ready to be admired by the public now that all has changed at the revamped National Archaeological Museum. The museum has new windows, scrubbed floors, air conditioning, new display cases and facilities for the physically disabled, which consist of a ramp and an elevator, providing access to the cafe and the museum shop as well. The walls have been painted a subtle shade of white; many of the bases that exhibits are placed on have been fixed, while others, like the base of the funerary statue from the Kerameikos cemetery which adorned an athlete’s grave, can be raised. The pleasure of «newness» one encounters in the country’s greatest museum is reflected on the faces of the museum staff, such as Lena Papazoglou, curator of the Mycenaean exhibits and Eleni Kourinou, responsible for the statue displays. While preparing for today’s opening, Nikos Kaltsas, the museum’s director, talked about how the museum is different and expressed his pleasure at the achievement of such a difficult task, namely the renovation and redisplay of the exhibits in just a few months, and the hosting of a new exhibition on July 15. Thirty-two of the 40 ground-floor halls will open tonight, while the rest will be ready by October. «Exhibits are displayed in chronological order, following art’s historical evolution, and each collection consists of small units that form a whole,» says Kaltsas. Kaltsas explained that the prehistoric collection includes items from the Neolithic and Bronze ages and that in the hall of Cycladic art, finds are on display in accordance with how they were found in excavations, except for the statuettes of a woman and two men, which are exhibited on their own. Mycenaean finds form two units: The main hall contains finds from the Peloponnese and the small adjacent hall to the left contains Mycenaean exhibits found in other regions. Visitors first encounter items from Burial Cycles A and B, then from the religious and administrative centers and finally there is the unit with exhibits from tombs from all over the Peloponnese. «The exhibits are much more accessible to the visitors,» said the director. Among them, one can also see sculptures that are being exhibited for the first time, such as that of a Cypriot woman.

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