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The new Acropolis museum was completed in 2008 and it has been open to the public since June of 2009. Greece had been planning this opening since the Olympic games of 2004, but due to archeological discoveries on the site which required careful attention, the museum opening had been delayed. The museum was designed by Bernard Tschumi, an internationally acclaimed architect who resides in New York City.

It’s a vast improvement over the facility that was previously displaying some of the Acropolis artifacts. The old museum had 1, 450 square meters of exhibition space. In contrast, the new museum boasts 14, 000 square meters of space and contains over 4,000 artifacts. Now the Greeks can finally showcase a growing number of archaeological treasures found in recent years.

The exterior of the museum is very modern, featuring precise geometry and glass walls which allow sculptures to be viewed in the dazzling natural light. Another unique feature of the building are glass floors that allow visitors a view of the ground where artifacts were discovered during the process of construction. Layers of archaeological remains from the archaic and classical eras can be seen right in the spot they were uncovered.

Even more importantly, the museum includes a space on the top floor specifically designed to showcase the “Elgin marbles”, a series of exquisite sculptures that once decorated the frieze of the Parthenon. The sculptures show legendary battles and mythical scenes, and for many Greeks are a symbol of their culture and democracy. They were controversially hacked away from the Parthenon in 1811 by Lord Elgin, a British aristocrat, who brought them back to London. They have been on display in the British Museum, even though the Greeks have been requesting their return for decades. This is the source of much contention between the British and the Greeks, who want them exhibited next to the Acropolis where they originated, and in the company of the rest of the sculptures that compose the entire frieze. The British have responded to these requests with excuses, citing the lack of proper exhibition space in Athens and the possibility of damage to the priceless artifacts.

That’s why this museum is so important to the Greeks… it was built with the purpose of finally providing an exceptional place to display the Elgin marbles should they be returned to Athens. In fact, the display of the marbles in the new Acropolis museum has been designed to give visitors a direct view of the Parthenon and reveal the marbles’ relationship to the ancient building.

The new museum now provides the perfect place for the sculptures, but Britain still refuses to give them back. The British Museum recently offered to loan the marbles back to Greece temporarily, but the Greeks turned down their offer, insisting that the marbles need to be returned permanently. I believe it’s only a matter of time before Britain will succumb to the international pressure to return the sculptures to Greece.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 18th, 2009 at 3:00 pm.
Categories: Design.

2 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. SHAYNA

    it would be like a dream to visit this museum. i would especially love to see the artifacts that were discovered during the construction. and, i am sure the britains can figure out a safe way to return the marbles…how would they like it if someone stole a piece of their history and then displayed it in another country…it is time for britian to make history right.

  2. Kiriaki

    Dull is the eye that will not weep to see
    Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed
    By British hands, which it had best behoved
    To guard those relics ne’er to be restored.
    Curst be the hour when from their isle they roved,
    And once again thy hapless bosom gored,
    And snatch’d thy shrinking gods to northern climes abhorred!
    Lord Byron

    AND

    “The Honourable Lord has taken advantage of the most unjustifiable means and has committed the most flagrant pillages. It was, it seems, fatal that a representative of our country loot those objects that the Turks and other barbarians had considered sacred,” said Sir John Newport.[24]

    Who is a barbarian is a matter of opinion – he who desecrates a monument cannot be considered civilised. The not-so-honourable Elgin removed the marbles with, at best, questionable authority. The firman, with which Elgin justified his actions has disappeared. Time for honour to be served, don’t you think, and an act of pillage and vandalism reversed.

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