Plans for an open-air mining museum

An innovative museum will introduce visitors to the little-known natural wealth of Mantemohorion in Macedonia, a mining area for 25 centuries, if a proposal by two local cultural organizations bears fruit. A study presented at a conference on culture as a lever for development in Stratoniki, Halkidiki, last weekend argued for a culture park in northeastern Halkidiki to familiarize visitors with local traditions, history and environmental heritage. The two organizations, Stratonikeia Polis and Aristotelis o Stayeiritis, propose an outdoor mining museum, cultural itineraries, and a research and study center to be included in the European Natura 2000 program. The study was initially submitted to Halkidiki Prefecture in May 2002 and referred to the Halkidiki Development Corporation but was never implemented, Dimitris Louzikiotis, one of its authors, told Kathimerini. «Recently we resubmitted it to the Prime Minister, the Macedonia-Thrace regional administration and the jointly responsible ministries and hope this time it will not go unnoticed,» Louzikiotis said. «Besides, it is well known that the area was led into an impasse over the past 50 years by the one-way road of mining. We are aiming first at informing local inhabitants, and second at raising the awareness of the authorities. We are proposing a new means of development, where economic activity will go hand-in-hand with the cultural and environmental heritage of our area.» The project, which the study costs at 11 million euros, is for a local Mining and Cultural Itinerary Museum with permanent exhibits, printed and interactive information about the Mantemohorion area, and a center for the research and study of the Stratoniko range that will cooperate with the Greek Habitat-Wetland Center. The proposal also includes mapping out an extensive network of cultural itineraries with stops at local outdoor monuments, such as the ancient cities of Stageira and Akanthos, contemporary villages that retain elements of traditional architecture, sites of preindustrial mines, walking routes on Mount Stratonikou, and modern monuments such as the Ottoman hamam and the Tower of Madem Aga. Along the route there will be local information points using modern technology to help visitors get better acquainted with the area. Special emphasis will be laid on educational activities directed at organized groups and schools. The activities will focus on the structure of Mantemohorion during Ottoman rule, the connection with the mines, and the study of the area through travelers’ texts of that time. «Our objective is not to run a museum that only offers static exhibits,» Louzikiotis said. «The indoor area will be a starting point, and from there the whole area will be made into an outdoor museum with environmental and cultural tourism activities that respect the identity of the place.» One of five proposed tours might start at Stratoniki, the chief village in the area, where the mining museum will be situated, Louzikiotis said. The tour would then continue at the archaeological site of ancient Akanthos and the local boatyards and conclude at Stratoniki via Mount Kakkavos, site of the Ivrion Monastery’s old water mill. The other tours including climbing to the top of Mount Stronikou and visiting mines and Byzantine and post-Byzantine monuments. If the project expands and is popular, more itineraries will be created. «We are sowing the seed,» Louzikiotis said. «With luck the whole area will become a culture park.»