Excavating archaeological history

Situated in a former printing house, wonderfully renovated and at the very heart of the capital’s historic center, a new museum has recently opened its doors to the public. The new museum and research center of the Directorate of the National Archive of Monuments is at 22 Psaromilingou Street in Thiseion. Considering the effort required to retrieve rare and unknown historical archives from obscurity, this inauguration is a small miracle. Once all the material had been digitized, it was time to present it to the public. The exhibition features pieces of Greek history directly linked to archaeology and the development of the Greek state, which are on display for the first time. Highlights include a telegram announcing the discovery of the statue of Hermes by Praxiteles in Olympia, the document with which King Otto appointed Kyriakos Pittakis as the first general ephor of antiquities and procedures for the protection of the National Archaeological Museum in case of bombardment. Both the inauguration of the museum and the exhibition have brought great satisfaction to the people who have worked hard toward the grand opening, such as Metaxia Tsipopoulou, the directorate’s head. «Both the building and the exhibition have finally been inaugurated,» archaeologist Angeliki Kosmopoulou, director of Logos Associates – the company that is in charge of the promotion of the project and the exhibition – told Kathimerini. «The museum will be a research center and a place of safekeeping. The exhibition has been set up in special display boxes that enable their possible future transfer to other cities.» She added that of particular interest among the exhibits is the correspondence between the Greek and the Prussian – and later German – governments concerning the excavations in Olympia. Equally interesting, though more specialized, are the documents regarding Greek excavations in the Balkans and in Asia Minor, which make up a «map» of diplomatic archaeology. The extent and historical value of the materials owned by the Culture Ministry’s Directorate of the National Archive of Monuments make it unique. All the documents, photographs, maps and sketches, which were initially in about 1,300 boxes, were granted to the directorate, which, in turn, undertook the categorization, organization, maintenance and digitalization process which culminated in the opening of the museum and exhibition. The organization of this historical material also provides a great opportunity for research.