CULTURE

National treasure’s revamp

All those interested in visiting the country’s most important archaeological museum, the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, should act soon. October 1 has been finalized as the date when the museum’s doors will be closing to the public, until May 2004, for major restoration work. It will include repairing extensive damage caused by an earthquake in 1999, particularly on the museum’s first floor, which has since remained closed. Also, parts of the interior will be redesigned to improve exhibiting conditions and better utilize the building’s space. It would help bring to light rare and previously unexhibited items that have remained locked away in the museum’s storage rooms. Besides catering to the needs of the Athens Olympics in 2004, the renovated archaeological museum will better serve its visitors in the long run. Revamping works are set to begin in October, but demolition and construction crews will need to wait until all the exhibited items are packed and stored away in the museum’s basement storage space. Considering the 20,000 or so ancient gems that will have to be handled with great care, the revamp’s preliminary phase alone will be a huge task. Though the items will only be moving a modest distance to the museum’s basement, the task’s fragile nature will make the procedure quite time-consuming. According to sources, the new-look museum’s inauguration in spring 2004, timed to take place four months ahead of the Athens Olympics (August 13-29), promises to be a grand, internationally flavored occasion that will do justice to the country’s most prominent museum. Work ahead includes the installation of various modern facilities and improved exhibit areas to upgrade the museum to modern-day standards. A longer-term plan, following the Athens Olympics, entails extending the museum’s basement area. According to highly ranked Culture Ministry officials, legal matters concerning this planned extension have been completed and the prospective project’s plans have been submitted to the European Union for funding as part of funding procedures from the European Union’s Third Community Support Framework. Meanwhile, early groundwork for the museum’s new entrance recently led to the discovery of pot shards. Though no great finds are expected, officials have, as a result, decided to conduct trial trenches. While the museum gears up for its revamp, museum-goers should take advantage of its latest temporary exhibition, «Fragile Luxury,» a focus on glass items. So far, this stunning exhibit has attracted a considerable number of visitors, and will now run for a longer period of time, right through September. Unfortunately, the items on show, 215 glass treasures, will not make up part of the new museum’s exhibits when it reopens in May 2004, which makes visiting the current event even more vital. Now is the opportunity for individuals who have yet to enjoy the variety of glass items, including perfume bottles – single and multicolored, as well as iridescent and transparent – flasks, and miniature amphorae. All in all, the creative and daring designs serve to challenge today’s so-called modern creators.