Coffee break? Not so fast

The National Archaeological Museum seldom sees such glory as it enjoyed with its recent exhibition «Colorful Gods,» which was strongly praised by young and old alike. The theme turned out to be particularly appealing, especially to younger members of the public. So it was not a great surprise that the exhibition succeeded in attracting a young audience to Patission Street. The problem, however, lies elsewhere. When visitors wanted to take a small break, enjoy a refreshment and then continue their tour of the museum, they found the museum’s coffee shop closed. «There’s a cafe across the street,» was the polite response given by museum guards, advising visitors to try one of the coffees shops in the nearby park. But, once out of the building, the chances are pretty slim that visitors will want to return to the museum later on. Unfortunately for visitors, this has been the situation since fall. It is not the fault of the museum’s management though, for the country’s museum gift shops and cafes come under the jurisdiction of the Hellenic Culture Organization. To make matters worse, the gift shop was also recently closed for renovation and expansion, and it is anyone’s guess whether it will be open in time for the summer season. The gift shop certainly needed to be expanded since being hastily prepared for the 2004 Olympic Games, for even then it was considered by many to be quite inadequate. Current plans for its expansion are ambitious – and will hopefully materialize – but the truth is that the National Archaeological Museum gift shop has always appeared to be under some curse. For the past 10 years, the shop has failed to meet demand for reproductions. Greeks would put their names on a long waiting list, while tourists would simply grab whatever was available. Stocks of most of the items advertised were soon depleted – especially copies of the more striking pieces – as the Archaeological Fund was unable to respond to production needs. As far as cheaper mementos are concerned (cups, pencils etc) – particularly popular among tourists – they have unfortunately always been snubbed by Greek museum shops. Now, potential shoppers at the museum are being sent to 57 Panepistimiou Street. These are just some examples of the kind of things that tarnish the reputation of state museums. Another is opening times. No matter how many ministers have tried, they have been unable to extend opening hours.