Acropolis Museum, Athens
After decades of planning and years of construction, the Acropolis Museum in Athens opened in an ultra-modern new building on June 20, 2009. Located at the foot of the Acropolis, the new museum displays statues, reliefs and artifacts from the Parthenon and other sites on the Acropolis.
Immediately after the War of Independence (1821-29) drove the Turks from Athens, plans were discussed for an Acropolis Museum. Under Ottoman rule, many foreign visitors had taken souvenirs from the Acropolis back to their own countries (the most infamous being the Elgin Marbles) and the protection of the remaining artifacts became a significant part of establishing independent Greek identity.
The first Acropolis Museum was built in 1865 southeast of the Parthenon. After archaeological excavations of the Acropolis began in 1886, this small museum proved inadequate to hold all the finds. A second museum was built in 1888, which was in turn demolished in 1946-47 in favor of expanding the original.
By the 1970s, the old museum was proving too small for the amount of artworks, insufficient for the numbers of visitors it received and inadequate for the beauty and importance of the artifacts displayed there. Discussion for a new museum began and architectural competitions were held in 1976 and 1979, but the project stalled.
In 1989, in large part in the hopes of getting the British Museum to return the Parthenon friezes to Athens, Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri initiated a new competition. But construction plans had to be canceled after the discovery of an ancient residential area on the building site.
Finally, in 2000, a fourth architectural competition was held, with the winning design going to architect Bernard Tschumi. The old museum closed in 2007 for the final phase of construction and the new Acropolis Museum opened to the public in June 2009.
The completion of the new Acropolis Museum has brought an ongoing debate to the forefront: should the British Museum return the Elgin Marbles to Athens? Taken by Lord Elgin when he was ambassador to the ruling Ottoman Empire in the early 1800s, these Parthenon reliefs have been a prize exhibit in London's British Museum since 1818.
Among the reasons given by the museum for not returning the Parthenon friezes to Athens is that there would not be a suitable place to display them there. That argument, at least, has now been rendered obsolete. On the official website of the Acropolis Museum, the Greek Minister of Culture writes that not having those fragments in Athens is like "missing a piece of our soul" and that he expects them to be reunited in Greece soon.
What to See
The new Acropolis Museum is housed in a state-of-the-art building designed by Swiss-born architect Bernard Tschumi. With an area of 226,000 square feet - 10 times larger than the old museum - the new building feels open and full of light. Its design has received mixed reviews from locals, but there is no doubt it is a striking and highly functional work of architecture.
The Acropolis Museum houses all of the portable objects removed from the Acropolis since 1834, with the exception of a few bronzes displayed in the National Archeological Museum and inscriptions in the Epigraphical Museum. The museum's artifacts are primarily religious in nature, including a fascinating collection of ancient statues used in religious ceremonies, and they provide a fascinating visual history of Greek religion.
The permanent collection includes the following exhibits:
In addition to the Parthenon frieze, notable highlights of the collection include several statues and offerings from the Archaic Temple of Athena and the original Caryatids salvaged from the Erechtheion Temple (replicas are displayed on the original site).
Quick Facts on the Acropolis Museum
|Names:||Acropolis Museum; Acropolis Museum, Athens|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||37.968521° N, 23.728350° E (view on Google Maps)|
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Map of the Acropolis Museum
Below is a location map and aerial view of the Acropolis Museum. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.
- The Acropolis Museum - official website (currently Greek only)
- Michael Kimmelmann, "Elgin Marble Argument in a New Light" - New York Times, June 23, 2009
|Title:||Acropolis Museum, Athens|
|Link code:||<a href="http://www.sacred-destinations.com/greece/athens-acropolis-museum/greece/athens-erechtheion-temple">Acropolis Museum, Athens</a>|