The Byzantine and Christian Museum will be unrecognizable by June 2004. When the new permanent exhibition is ready, many of the 2,500 items on display will have left the museum’s storage area for the first time. The project of extending the museum has been carried out successfully, but what remains is to design the permanent collection, the museum’s director, Dimitris Konstantios, told Kathimerini. With more than 15,000 exhibits in collections dating from the third to the 19th century, the museum is the largest of its kind in the world. The Central Archaeological Service has approved the loan of 200 items from the First Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities. Dating from the Early Christian to the Late Byzantine era, the items include jewelry, sculpture, frescoes, icons and ceramic vessels, and will be on extended loan. «These exhibits will not only enrich the permanent collection but will also appear in temporary exhibitions, such as the regular ‘Exhibit of the Month’,» says Konstantios. Objects from Attica, Boeotia and Euboea have been borrowed in the spirit of mutual cooperation, he explains, and the Byzantine Museum is willing to lend items to the ephorate if needed. Archaeological park Meanwhile, there is good news about the refurbishment of the surrounding area. An archaeological park is to be established between Aristotle’s Lyceum on Rigillis Street, the Officers’ Club and the Byzantine Museum. Apart from pathways, a cafe-restaurant and a small theater, the park will also have a large shop. «The papers have been signed to make the funding from the Third Community Support Framework available, and the contractors will come in soon,» says Konstantios. Total expenditure will be 20.5 million euros. The Byzantine Museum will use its old building – the Villa Ilissia, built in 1848 by Stamatis Kleanthis for Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun, Duchesse de Plaisance – for temporary exhibitions. After remodeling by Aristotle Zachos in 1930, the building became a treasury of Byzantine and post-Byzantine art. Refurbishment will begin after the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.