October 17, 2007

Ancient treasure move to new museum

Posted at 1:34 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Greece Archaeology, New Acropolis Museum

More coverage in the international press of the historic moving of sculptures into the New Acropolis Museum.

The Independent

15 October 2007 14:02
Ancient treasures begin move from Acropolis to antiquities museum
By Claire Ellicott
Published: 15 October 2007

The movement of hundreds of ancient masterpieces from the Acropolis hillside to an ultra-modern museum at the foot of the Athens citadel has begun.

Three giant cranes successfully transferred yesterday the first of the antiquities, a 2.3-ton block of sculpted marble depicting an ancient religious procession held in honour of the goddess Athena, from the northern end of the Parthenon to its new home.

Michalis Liapis, the Culture Minister, called the 90-minute operation – the first of many in coming weeks – a “historic event of global significance”.

The painstaking task of shifting the iconic sculpture from the northern end of the Parthenon, where it has stood for the last 2,400 years, to the Acropolis Museum 400 metres away, took over 90 minutes.

Windy weather had caused some concern amongst Greek officials as the cranes, although earthquake-proof, are susceptible to strong winds.

Over the coming months, 4,500 artefacts, mostly from the 6th and 5th centuries BC, will be packed.

The transfer of the ancient sculptures and friezes, which have been insured for €400m (£290m), is expected to be completed in January and will be displayed in the €129m Acropolis Museum, which opens to the public in late 2008.

Meanwhile, the British Museum has consistently refused requests by Greece to repatriate the Parthenon sculptures (Elgin Marbles), arguing that it lacked a suitable venue in which to display them together.

BBC News

Last Updated: Monday, 15 October 2007, 00:07 GMT 01:07 UK
Cranes move Acropolis sculptures

Greece has begun moving the ancient sculptures from the Acropolis in Athens to a new home – a museum at the foot of the hilltop citadel.

Crowds of bystanders watched the first of the monuments gingerly lifted by cranes at the 2,500-year-old Parthenon.

Thousands of antiquities will be moved, mostly marble sculptures from the fifth and sixth centuries BC.

Greek officials hope the new site will boost the country’s long campaign for the return of the Elgin Marbles.

The Elgin Marbles are a collection of sculptures that were removed from the Parthenon 200 years ago and are now part of a collection at the British Museum in London.

‘Historic event’

Greek Culture Minister Michael Liapis told Reuters news agency: “It is the first time in 2,500 years the Parthenon marbles are moved.

“It’s a historic event not just for Greece but the international community.”

The antiquities – which are insured for 400m euros (£280m) – are being removed from the old museum next to the Parthenon.

Three giant cranes are expected to take six weeks to transfer the sculptures 400 metres (1,300ft) down the hill to a new ultra-modern museum, which is set to open next year.


After 2,500 years, Parthenon treasures move to new home
Campaign for return of Elgin marbles receives historic propaganda boost
Helena Smith in Athens
Monday October 15, 2007

A collective gasp filled the air early yesterday as a blue crate containing a 2.5-tonne slab of marble universally viewed as one of the most important works of antiquity, was hoisted by a giant crane from the Acropolis. For those who had come to watch, this was history in the making, the first sculpture to officially leave the ancient citadel since Phidias carved the artworks, 2,500 years ago.

The moment, heavy in symbolism, was not lost on Greece’s culture minister, Michalis Liapis. “For the first time, after 25 centuries, the sculptures are being transferred to the new Acropolis museum. It is awe-inspiring and deeply moving,” he said after witnessing the metal crate make the 400-yard journey to the spectacular cement and glass building that will be the artworks’ new home. “It naturally raises our demand for the reunification of the Parthenon marbles”

Not since work began on the £94m new museum has a single event injected such fervour into the debate over the future of the world’s most famous piece of classical statuary – the 160-metre long strip of marble depicting the great Panathenaic procession which adorned the Parthenon until Lord Elgin removed and sold half of it to the British Museum, nearly 200 years ago.

Yesterday’s meticulously choreographed operation will be repeated 153 times during the coming months as an estimated 4,500 antiquities are moved from the Acropolis to the new museum.

After more than three decades of preparation, procrastination and acrimonious debate, the museum is nearing completion and is expected to open next year. Nearly 25 years after the Greek government launched its campaign for the return of the marbles from the British Museum, the 14,000 square metre building will be the ultimate propaganda tool.

Designed by the Swiss-American architect Bernard Tschumi, and co-sponsored by the EU, the museum, it is hoped. will finally do away with the argument that modern Greece is incapable of properly housing the treasures of its golden age.

“It is not just that this is the first time that first-class masterpieces of classical art has ever been moved from the site,” said Professor Dimitrios Pandermalis, the eminent archaeologist who has overseen the construction of the museum since 1997. “Symbolically, the airlift marks the starting point of the functioning of the new Acropolis museum, because it will henceforth acquire its context.”

It is not just that the museum is built at the foot of the iconic work of art. With the reproduction in its upper gallery of the exact dimensions of the Parthenon temple, campaigners say that the building allows the marbles to be represented in their original configuration and context, in a way that could never be done in the British Museum. “It is one of the most significant buildings in Greece for the last 2,000 years,” said David Hill, who presides over the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures. “It leaves the Greeks in a position where they can present the surviving Parthenon sculptures in a much more meaningful and better way than the British Museum could ever do.”

At least half of the antiquities that will be put on display in the new three-tiered building have not been seen for a very long time. “For years they’ve been in storerooms, because the old Acropolis museum was too small to exhibit them. The public don’t know they exist,” said Alexandros Mantis, the archaeologist who heads the world heritage monument, told the Guardian. “This moment is a dream come true. We’ve waited for this museum for so long I almost can’t believe it’s happening.”

But it the building’s emphasis on loss – the absence of the 88 sculptures exhibited in London – that gives it a poignancy few other museums have. In place of the missing Elgin marbles, officials have decided to hang plastercasts made from the originals in the British Museum, copies that will be covered with wire mesh veils.

“My hope is that one day the marbles will be returned and people can see them reunited, in one place,” Mr Tschumi said. “The concept was to restore the continuity of the narrative. The sculptures were never a single object, they told a story. This way visitors will see the sculptures in their narrative sequence and will ask whether they should be back in Athens.”

All polls, for the past decade, have shown that the British public wants the marbles back in Greece. But the British Museum has refused to be drawn into the debate, saying that the display in London allows “complementary stories to be told about them.”

Attending the inaugural move yesterday, the British ambassador to Athens, Simon Gass, said: “It’s a very impressive museum, but I can’t say much more than that.”


The transfer is expected to take up to three months, with four crates of artworks being transferred every day. Greeks hope that the new museum will boost their campaign, launched by the late actress Melina Mercouri in the early 1980s, for the return of the Elgin marbles, above. They were removed from the temples in 1801 by Thomas Bruce, seventh Earl of Elgin. He was subsequently vilified by Lord Byron in the poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

Kathimerini (English edition)

Acropolis Museum…

A container with ancient artifacts inside is lowered from the Acropolis yesterday at the start of the process to transfer more than 4,000 antiquities from the sacred rock to the new Acropolis Museum some 400 meters away using three giant cranes. The beginning of the historic operation was watched by hundreds of onlookers, including protesters who want the government to halt plans to knock down two listed buildings that are partially blocking the view of the Parthenon from the museum, which is due to fully open to the public late next year.

The List (UK)

Greek museum move raises debate over Elgin marbles
Publication: List.co.uk
Date: 15 October 2007

A massive operation is underway to remove some 4,500 antiquities from the Acropolis in Greece to a purpose-built museum 400 yards below.

The marble carvings created by Phidias, which have rested atop the Parthenon for 2,500 years will, over the coming months, be moved to the £94 million museum below.

Bystanders watched as a massive 2.5-tonne slab of marble dangled from a giant crane, marking the beginning of the event.

Culture minster Michael Liapis said it was ‘the move of the century’.

He added: ‘It’s a historic event not just for Greece but the international community.’

The move puts increasing emphasis on the campaign to have part of a 160-metre strip of marble returned to Greece.

The marble portraying the Panathenaic procession was sold to the British Museum by Lord Elgin 200 years ago.

Designed by Swiss-American architect Bernard Tschumi, the museum is expected to open next year.

‘My hope is that one day, the marbles will be returned and people can see them reunited, in one place,’ he said.

‘The concept was to restore the continuity of the narrative. The sculptures were never a single object, they told a story.

‘This way visitors will see the sculptures in their narrative sequence and will ask whether they should be back in Athens.’

The museum’s upper gallery reproduces the exact dimensions of the Parthenon temple – and will underpin the Greek government’s push to have the marbles returned.

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