NEWS

After four years, museum council holds first session

Members of the Central Council for Museums, founded four years ago to create a single policy for the country’s museums, met for the first time recently, bringing together senior Culture Ministry officials and state museum directors. The head of the Organization for the Construction of the New Acropolis Museum (OANMA), Dimitris Pantermalis, took the opportunity to announce that work on the new Acropolis Museum will be finalized in March of next year. The minimalist design of the building is carried through to the interior, which is not divided into separate halls. «It is a continuous walk, which has been estimated at three-quarters of an hour,» said Pantermalis. In contrast to the state-of-the-art structure, Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis told the council it was generally accepted that many of the museums already in existence around the country left something to be desired, while Greek attendance at them was very low compared to the number of tourist visitors. He outlined work being done around the country to improve museum infrastructure. Altogether, there are 165 archaeological museums in Greece, two state museums of modern art and another 41 private ones, one state and 42 municipal art galleries, seven museums devoted to the theater, 60 to modern cultural heritage, 28 to science and technology, 54 to history, 25 to natural history and 10 to maritime history. «However, seven in 10 Greeks say they hardly ever visit a museum,» said Voulgarakis. Referring to a survey by Metron Analysis for Highlights magazine in 2005, the minister said it was the considerable increase in the number of tourists in recent years that had «provided the challenge» facing the country’s museums. Over the past three years, revenues from ticket sales have risen from 5,134,133 euros in 2004 to 6,857,012 euros in the first half of this year alone, he added. «Therefore a unified state museum policy is more important than ever,» he said, particularly in view of plans for more venues in Didymoteicho, Thermi and on the island of Icaria, as well as further work on the Athens Byzantine and Christian Museum. He also said a contract had been signed for an extension to the Thessaloniki Byzantine Museum and new museums in Tegea, Arcadia and in Neapoli, Laconia. Work is under way on new museums in Pella, Thebes and elsewhere. Those in Ioannina and Nikopolis have been completed, while the Hania and Messara archaeological museums are on the drawing board, as are those in Alexandroupolis and Megalopolis, as well as improvements to the museums in Aghios Nikolaos, Crete, and in Sparta.