NEWS

National museum getting ready to meet 21st century demands

It was not only the damage caused by the earthquake in September 1999 that forced the National Archaeological Museum to undergo the complex refurbishment now under way, but the need to meet the requirements of the 21st century. And, fortunately, the 2004 Olympic Games provided a useful pretext for the Athens institution to throw off its postwar mantle and meet the contemporary needs of today’s visitor. These would include central air conditioning, lighting, new showcases, elevators and even a fire exit. In addition, the museum has to prepare 15,000 items for display in a new setting. But the museum’s director, Nikos Kaltsas, with his usual foresight, has designed the large, temporary exhibition «Fighting Spirit,» with works dedicated to sports, music, drama and dance competitions. Recently, he presented to the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) the program for redisplaying the National Archaeological Museum’s treasures, which span a period of 6,000 years. Essentially, the exhibits will be arranged in three collections: prehistoric, Bronze Age and ceramic vessels. The prehistoric collection will be displayed in four halls on the ground floor. In accordance with the new thinking, an area after the entrance will introduce the visitor to the exhibits, with texts and informative material accompanying the viewer to the next two halls. There, four large gravestones from Grave Circle A from Mycenae line up face to face – an imposing introduction to the Mycenaean sections. The fifth hall, dedicated to the Neolithic period, will house Neolithic finds from Thessaly, Fthiotida, Boeotia, Attica, Corinth and other areas, while on display for the first time will be 70 gold objects, the result of confiscation of illegal hoards. But the visitors will not see the reproduction of a Neolithic homestead that was suggested by Kaltsas. The finds from Lemnos, Troy and Lefkada form a separate group. The Mycenaean collection – in halls 3 and 4 – contains 5,000 objects, while the central area is divided into three units: Grave Circles A and B, Mycenaean acropolises and chamber and beehive tombs. KAS also approved the proposal to redisplay Bronze Age exhibits, for which 54 old and five new showcases will be used. They also agreed to the display of the ceramic vessel collection in eight halls on the first floor, which will house 4,000 other objects and the Thera collection in the Thera Hall. This will contain 300 items from Akrotiri on Thera, among them the spring, boxers and antelope frescoes. Another fresco will be brought over from Thera.