A new era dawns for museums

Museum-goers got a boost at a recent conference, held on June 29 at the Byzantine Museum in Athens, advocating new museum designs and heralding new constructions while promoting a broader rethink of the purposes that museums serve. Not only will Greece see the number of its archaeological museums grow from 165 to 240 in the next few years, but the construction fever coincides with an overall re-evaluation of museum policy and what museums represent today. The designs for the museums of Patras, Hania, Messara and Thermo show that Greece is reassessing both the size and meaning of museums. The modern shell of the new Patras Museum signals a new era in many respects. The Culture Ministry’s Museums and Cultural Buildings Directorate organized the conference on the initiative of Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis. He noted that 71 percent of operational funds for culture went to museums and exhibitions. «Studies are currently being conducted for museums in Messara, Alexandroupolis, Aghios Nikolaos, Icaria, Vergina, Arethusa, Megalopoli, Thermo, Santorini, Polygiro, Rethymnon, Hania, Didimoteicho, and the Byzantine Museum, which are budgeted at almost 105 million euros,» said Tatoulis. Museums are scheduled to open by the end of this year in Larissa, Thessaloniki, Pyrgos, Ioannina, Pythagoreio, Salamina and Piraeus. The conference focused on presentations of the prizewinning studies for four museums. Special interest was expressed in the plans for the Patras Museum, since the city has been named Cultural Capital of Europe for 2006. Although construction only began in spring, the museum will be ready by the end of the year, architect Theofanis Bobotis (who also won the Hania museum competition) told Kathimerini. He said that an attempt would be made to hold Cultural Capital events in the museum early next year. In any case the museum will go into normal operation by the second half of 2006. «Museums must become interactive; they must create the conditions in which observing an exhibit evolves into understanding and knowledge of the culture it represents,» Bobotis told the conference.

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