Museums to get hi-tech guides

Visitors to Greece’s most popular museums and archaeological sites will be able to enjoy the experience with their own mobile tour guides next year if a pilot program approved yesterday by the Culture Ministry’s Central Archaeological Council (KAS) is successful. According to the 9.5-million-euro agreement, electronics giant Hewlett Packard will supply 3,000 electronic palm-held screens and 1,670 audio headsets which are to be activated by a network of transmitters set up at strategic points around museums and sites. The pilot program is to include 15 tourist attractions, including the Acropolis and its museums, the National Archaeological Museum as well as sites and museums at Olympia, Delphi, Epidaurus and Knossos. The text of the audio guide – to be available in Greek, English, French and German – has been composed by state archaeologists with the aim of providing a comprehensive explanation of sites and museum exhibits to the uninitiated. However some KAS members yesterday expressed reservations about the user-friendliness of the palm-top screens, describing them as «too complex.» Apart from approving the Hewlett Packard deal, the archaeological council was yesterday also busy opposing plans to host an international sporting event in Ancient Olympia on May 14. Last June, the Culture Ministry struck a deal with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to host an annual Throws Gala at Olympia after the site staged the shot-put contest for the Athens 2004 Olympics, to huge acclaim. But yesterday, the ministry’s archaeological council expressed concerns about possible damage to the site if subjected to the pressure of an estimated 125 tons of equipment and 15,000 spectators. Council members complained that staging such an event would violate laws for the protection of antiquities. However, representatives of the General Secretariat for Sports – another ministry body – said Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Orfanos and former alternate culture minister Fanni Palli-Petralia had «evidently come to an understanding.»