New director being lined up for new museum

Alexandros Mantis, director of the primary organization charged with overseeing and curating the historic Acropolis site, has been asked to serve as director of the recently unveiled New Acropolis Museum, the president of the museum’s board of directors said Tuesday. Mantis’s appointment is still pending final approval by Culture Minister Antonis Samaras, and the position, if granted, will officially be on a temporary basis, said board president Dimitris Pandermalis. But Pandermalis added that he is «almost sure» that approval will be given, and hopeful that over time Mantis’s placement will become permanent. The 130-million-euro museum, which opened its doors to the public just over a week ago, will be filling other positions on its archaeological and scientific staff with personnel already affiliated with the museum project, Pandermalis said. The museum is also looking to more than double the number of attendants on the floor of the museum so that monitoring of the exhibits can be increased. Contacted for an interview by Kathimerini late last week, before news of his possible appointment was announced, Mantis, who heads the Culture Ministry’s Acropolis Ephorate and is currently a member of the new museum’s board of directors, said that he had been in the museum daily since its opening, trying to gauge people’s reactions to the displays. »I see the faces of the people, I try to see what they say, how they view the whole thing, the comments, how they admire the sculptures, what they say about them,» he said in a phone interview last Friday. »I think that they are very pleased.» But Mantis offered no indication that he may be bound for the directorship during the interview, deflecting a question about the museum’s leadership situation and saying only that the «first steps» had been taken to address the issue of the venue’s personnel. «All [this] – who is going to be the director, who is going to be the curator – is something that’s going to be dealt with in the next few weeks,» he said. «The priority is the people, how they feel in the New Acropolis Museum, what kinds of reactions they have about the way we have arranged all these exhibitions.» Mantis could not be reached for further comment early this week, but colleagues filled in the gaps, lauding his scholarship and appropriateness for the position of director. «This is the guy who really deserved the job,» said Olga Palagia, professor of Classical archaeology at the University of Athens. «He has been working there, he knows the Acropolis, he knows the monument, he has done excellent scholarly work. All the archaeologists will be pleased.» Further good will came from England, where the British Museum, currently housing about half of the legendary Parthenon frieze, has come under fire from Greek culture officials who see the New Acropolis Museum as an exclamation point for their argument that the sculptures should be returned. A British Museum representative yesterday wrote to Kathimerini that the organization was «delighted» at the news of Mantis’s advancement. «Dr Mantis is an old friend of the Department of Greece and Rome at the British Museum, where he was once an intern, researching the Parthenon sculptures,» the representative wrote. «Dr Mantis is a much respected expert on the sculptures of the Parthenon, and his work with the metopes has greatly increased our knowledge and understanding of them.» While Mantis’s selection appeared to be well received, it did little to answer questions about the transparency of the appointment process for the new museum. Late last week, before the likelihood of Mantis’s advancement was acknowledged, a source with knowledge of activities on the Acropolis expressed skepticism about whether the selection process for officials at the museum would be open. And as late as Tuesday, Charalambos Bouras, who sits on the board of the new museum, said he had been given no information about what the process for electing a director would be. «I think the job will be given behind our back and we won’t know. I think somebody will be appointed and they’ll be told, ‘You apply and we’ll give it to you,’» said the source, who asked for anonymity to avoid harming relationships with colleagues. «Because thats how jobs like these are given… the politicians decide and then everybody goes along.» Pandermalis said Tuesday that he expected official notice of Mantis’s appointment to be given «very soon,» before the end of the summer, once the legal procedures necessary for approval were completed, and that, in time, all appointments made at the museum would be on the basis of applications. It was not clear early this week whether Mantis could continue his duties as director of the Acropolis Ephorate once assuming the helm of the museum. But Pandermalis, who taught Mantis decades ago as a professor at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University, appeared to be in favor of allowing the positions to overlap. «I think in this case there is a very close connection,» he said. «It’s foolish to think the Rock is separate [from the Acropolis Museum]… It is one unit.»