The true face of our culture


It is a recurring nightmare. “Once again, as in every year since 2013, Nemea is about to close due to a lack of guards. The temporary staff will begin to leave early next month, and they will be gone a month from now,” Stephen Miller, professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley and director emeritus of the Nemea excavations, warned in an open letter on Tuesday. 

The five permanent staff members cannot watch over the museum and archaeological site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The site will close for the next few months. 

The Hellenic Statistical Service figures underline this: In October last year, 3,041 people visited Ancient Nemea; in November and December, a grand total of zero entered its gates. 

If we multiply the consequences by all of the country’s archaeological sites and museums, we can estimate the huge cost in terms of lost revenues, disappointed visitors and missed opportunities for people who could be gainfully employed in Greece’s cultural sector. 

Other sites and museums are not blessed with defenders like Stephen Miller. But even if they were, it is unlikely that anything would change. 

This is not the first time that Miller has expressed alarm. And it is clear that mismanagement and indifference are worse than economic problems. 

Noting that, on the basis of past performance, income from ticket sales would exceed the cost of four extra guards, Miller commented, “Of course, since sales of guide books etc have been prohibited in the museum since April 1, 2016, it is clear that the state is not concerned about the loss of income.” 

In figures from the first half of 2017, the statistical service found an increase of 18.2 percent in visitors to museums and an increase of 24.5 percent in revenues compared to the same period last year. At archaeological sites, visitors were up by 20 percent and revenues by 21.3 percent. 

These positive results, though, can be attributed first to the overall increase of visitors to Greece and to higher ticket prices. Problems were not solved. Services and products did not improve. 

There is no plan and little interest in remedying things. Mismanagement is an ongoing crime. No one can claim he or she is unaware of this. There are no excuses. This is the true face of our culture.