Top museum to fully reopen by the summer

The country’s biggest showcase of antiquities, the Athens National Archaeological Museum, currently functioning at under half-capacity pending repairs for earthquake damage, will fully reopen this summer, the government said yesterday. During a visit to the 19th century building’s upper floor – shut down just after the September 1999 earthquake, which caused extensive damage – Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis said he was satisfied with the progress made by the refurbishment program. Tatoulis said the nine new halls would be open to the public by the end of April. He then quickly qualified this, saying the upper floor would be fully accessible by the end of May «at the latest.» Its 1,700 square meters of exhibition space – that include the former Numismatic Museum – will host the museum’s vase collections and the Bronze Age Santorini frescoes. A series of ground-floor halls, still closed following a sweeping refurbishment program that saw the installation of air conditioning and the replacement of the museum’s elegant wooden cases with new plastic ones, are expected to open shortly afterward. Initial plans by the previous, Socialist government, had called for the whole museum to reopen in time for the August Olympics. But only the ground floor – containing the bulk of the prehistoric collections and sculpture galleries – was ready before the Games. Tatoulis said the museum could gain more exhibition space by using the main Culture Ministry building, behind the museum, as administrative offices. The ministry is set to relocate to Rendi in southwest Athens.

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