OPINION

Museums and the essence

museums-and-the-essence

“The General Assembly of the Association of Greek Archaeologists has unanimously rejected the conversion of state-run museums into legal entities governed by public law (NPDD), for ideological, legal, political and practical reasons.” 

If this quote from the association did not have a date, one would have believed it was published today. In fact, it could have been published any time in the past or the future. It could have been eternal and immortal. Even if it was not about museums. The key word in this quote is “conversion.” That is, change. It immediately mobilizes the reflexes of the ubiquitous associations, unions and chambers, whose founding principle is conservatism – which in their language is called protection. 

The aforementioned announcement/protest is over 10 years old and concerned the New Acropolis Museum. Back in those days, in 2009, its independence from the special services of the Ministry of Culture was seen as “institutionally and operationally unacceptable.” 

It matters little that during these years of operation the Acropolis Museum has been a model of modern management, with autonomy and responsibility both in its mistakes and successes. Did the association come out to revoke what it had once decried? On the contrary. 

In view of the submission of a Culture Ministry bill that provides for the conversion of five museums (Athens' National Archaeological Museum, Byzantine and Christian Museum, Thessaloniki’s Archaeological Museum and Byzantine Culture Museum and Iraklio’s Archaeological Museum) into legal entities governed by public law in Parliament, tensions are rising, both inside and outside the House.

If museums cease to belong to the administrative hierarchy of the General Directorate of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage, then what is left? But of course, the “attempt to involve the private sector in the management” of their “museum stock.” In short, what are the associations saying? That museums will either function as services of the Ministry of Culture or they will fall into the clutches of the private sector. Either statism, or dissolution. This is, after all, how we have been functioning for years, and of course not only in Culture. And yet, despite all the existing statism, we are constantly trying to prevent the museums’ dissolution. 

These reactions, however, are not just about ideological obsessions. The bill also foresees a wide range of “inconveniences” for the status quo. These are insinuated in words such as “self-governing,” “efficiency,” “utilization,” “communication” and “marketing.” The debate dates back to the 1990s. The time for mild adjustments is over and we are also at risk of losing the narrow margin for the necessary reforms. But, sure, let’s talk about it a little more.