Aristotle University Folklore Museum is back in business

Over 10 years ago, Kathimerini published an article titled «Treasures in Boxes,» aptly summing up in three words the state of the collections of the Folklore Museum of Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University. Stowed in boxes since 1978 (because of a large earthquake), some 1,000 rare artifacts of Greece’s folk culture, dating from the 2nd to the 17th centuries AD, remain in storage in the university’s old library. The same title could very well have been used today had it not been for the dean’s office giving the green light in 2005 to a proposal to break open the boxes and gradually put the Folklore Museum back into operation. The proposal was drawn up by Aristotle University professors Chrysoula Hadzitaki-Kapsomenou and Eleonora Skouteri-Didaskalou. Drawing attention to the valuable collection of the university is also the aim of the exhibition «Valuables of Tradition,» which is jointly organized by the university and the Museum of Byzantine Culture (2 Stratou, tel 2310.868.570) and runs through October. Thanks to this exhibition, the boxes were opened after 28 years, and priceless items of jewelry, pendants and votive offering were dusted off and restored. Organized in five separate sections with specific themes, the exhibition concisely illustrates the life cycle of each object: how it was manufactured, sold and used. There is also information on the motifs and symbols seen on the pieces, along with explanations on where and by whom they were worn or used. Rings, bracelets, belts, door locks, brooches, necklaces, headscarves, combs, hairpins, charms, votive offerings and weapons all tell their own small stories to illustrate the way traditional Greek societal structures were built and how they functioned. The star display of the exhibition is a stunning velvet and gold embroidered traditional costume from Ioannina. «People dress up to stand out in a crowd, reflect their social status, their background and their local identity, but the more intricately they dress up, the more vulnerable they are to bad words and the evil eye. That is why they wore such a large number of amulets and other items of jewelry that were believed to ward off evil spells,» explains Skouteri-Didaskalou.