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Greece will step up efforts to reunify Elgin Marbles when New Acropolis Museum opens

The New Acropolis Museum [1] represents the most important step forward in the campaign to reunify the Parthenon Marbles since they were originally removed from the Acropolis over two hundred years ago. The heirs of Lord Elgin will not be invited tot he ceremony, although dwelling on this aspect seems to be something led by the press rather than an important part of the opening. If the heirs of Lord Elgin see the museum, maybe they will realsie that it is the best location for the sculptures & put their support behind the reunification campaigns.

Scotsman [2]

Greece steps up marbles bid with new museum opening
Published Date: 21 May 2009
By Renee Maltezou in Athens

GREECE will open a new Acropolis museum in June, with the aim of bringing back historical artefacts exhibited in the British Museum in London.
Greece has long campaigned to retrieve the Parthenon sculptures, saying they were an integral part of one of the world’s most important monuments, but the British Museum has refused to return the treasures.

The Acropolis museum, built below the Parthenon and the other classical age marble temples of the Acropolis, has experienced years of delay with legal battles and missed deadlines plaguing its construction.

“The new Acropolis museum is the quintessence of classical culture,” Greek culture minister Antonis Samaras said yesterday.

Hundreds of foreign dignitaries, artists and academics have been invited to the 20 June official inauguration.

British Museum officials have also been invited to the lavish ceremony, which is expected to cost 3 million (£2.6m).

The British Museum contains about half of the 160-metre frieze that adorned the 2,500-year-old temple, removed 200 years ago by Lord Elgin, then ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Greece.

The late actress turned culture minister Melina Mercouri launched the return campaign and the construction of the new museum to respond to arguments that Greece had no place to put the marbles.

Deutsche Presse Agentur [3]

No invite for Lord Elgin heirs as New Acropolis Museum opens – Feature
Posted : Thu, 21 May 2009 02:19:44 GMT
Author : DPA
Category : Culture (General)

Athens – When Greece’s long-awaited Acropolis Museum finally opens its doors next month, foreign presidents, international dignitaries and officials from the British Museum will be invited to celebrate. But one group has been banned from party: the descendants of Lord Thomas Elgin – the man Greece blames for removing friezes from the ancient Parthenon temple and then selling them to the British Museum in London, where they are currently on display.

Located at the foot of the ancient Acropolis in Athens, the new 20,000-square-metre museum was planned as the new home for the 160- metre-long strip of marble that adorned the Parthenon until 1801.

“The opening of the Acropolis Museum is a major world event and on June 20th it will be a day of celebration for all civilized people, not just for Greeks alone,” Greek Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said.

Greece will mark the opening of the new museum, nearly three decades after the building was first proposed, with a week-long party.

The new 120-million-euro (160-million-dollar) museum is the Greek government’s key argument for the return of the Parthenon, or Elgin, marbles from Britain.

Lord Elgin, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, removed the friezes from the temple when Athens was under Ottoman occupation some 200 years ago.

They were then sold to the British Museum which has since refused to relinquish the sculptures that include depictions of religious and mythological scenes, insisting the transaction was legal.

London has long argued that Athens lacks a proper display space to ensure the safety and preservation for these priceless antiquities.

The Greek government, it appears, is set to prove them wrong.

Designed by New York architect Bernard Tschumi to offer visitors direct visual contact with the Parthenon temple itself, the entire top-floor gallery of the new museum offers a simultaneous view of the frieze and the ancient site.

The top-floor gallery fits the exact dimensions of the Parthenon temple and its 115 panels. Greece only possesses 36 of them, but will display replicas of the rest.

Constructing such a vast museum in one of the world’s most ancient cities was not an easy task.

Almost as soon as workers began digging at the site, a settlement from the 5th century was uncovered, forcing contractors to call in archaeologists.

Rather than re-locate the museum, the architectural team decided to build the modern steel and glass structure on concrete stilts above the archaeological diggings.

The government is hoping to attract 2,500 visitors during the first three days after the opening.

Athens News Agency [4]

New Acropolis Museum opens in June

The galleries of the new Acropolis Museum will be officially unveiled on June 20 in a ceremony that will be in keeping with the importance of the antiquities within their walls, one that will be attended by heads of state and government, noted international figures and broadcast on television throughout the world, Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said on Wednesday.

Unveiling the events programme and announcing the composition of the new museum’s board, Samaras said that the inauguration ceremony will be accompanied by a week of events in the city of Athens, which will be suitably decorated and spruced up for the big day.

Samaras also stressed that the unveiling of the exhibits will use “unexpected” methods, with new technologies used to showcase the antiquities acting as the “artistic event” of the evening.

Security during the five days of events is being covered by Greece’s interior ministry, while a cruise of the Saronic Gulf has been organised for the day after the inauguration ceremony for the heads of state and government attending.

According to the minister, the cost of the inauguration is expected to be roughly half the six million euros originally announced.

The new museum will officially open its doors for the first time at 18:00 on June 17, when accredited arts correspondents will be given a two-hour tour of the galleries, followed by another tour for the general directors of Greek mass media at 20:00.

On June 18, there will be a tour of the new museum for members and staff of the Museums Council and Central Archaeological Council. At 20:00 in the evening on the same day, the museum will be opened to academics, artists and people of the arts and letters, as well as members of Committees for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles around the world and the association of American Friends of the Acropolis Museum. The foreign press will then be allowed in on June 19.

The official inauguration on June 20 will take place in the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, with many heads of state and government among the guests, in addition to ministers, the presidents of the IOC and UNESCO, former presidents of Greece, representatives of the Melina Mercouri Foundation, publishers and TV station owners.

From June 21-23, the new museum will be open to the public, particularly those that have booked through the e-ticketing programme, but the number of visitors will be divided into three daily zones and not exceed 2,550 people for three days.

The ministry has set the admission price for the museum at one euro throughout 2009, in view of the crisis and in consideration for Greek taxpayers that funded its construction, while from 2010 the admission price will rise to 5 euros. From 2011 onwards, the price of the ticket will be adjusted, with special discounts for pensioners, children, students and the disabled.

Finally, he referred to the ongoing controversy over plans to demolish two buildings on nearby Dionysiou Areopagitou street that obstruct the museum’s view of the Acropolis but are themselves listed buildings of architectural value. He said the ministry was looking into plans for transferring them to nearby plots to be acquired by the ministry, thus preserving the buildings and also giving the museum an unobstructed view of the Acropolis.

Kathimerini (English Edition) [5]

New museum set for grand launch

The columns of the Parthenon are reflected in the glass facade of the New Acropolis Museum yesterday. After years of delays, the ultramodern museum will open its doors to the public on June 20. The museum features a special chamber with spaces reserved for the Parthenon Marbles, currently in London’s British Museum.

The long-awaited opening of Athens’s New Acropolis Museum next month will be marked by five days of celebratory events, to be attended by a host of foreign leaders and dignitaries, Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said yesterday.

“The masterpieces of the Acropolis will breathe in unique surroundings,” Samaras said, referring to the statues and friezes that it took several months to transfer from Athens’s landmark monument into the controversial glass-and-concrete construction.

The inauguration will be accompanied by a rich program of events including “musical surprises,” Samaras said without elaborating. “It will be a magical atmosphere,” he said. Ministry sources noted that the cost of the festivities, initially budgeted at 6 million euros, will be restricted to half this sum.

Some 200 heads of state, diplomats and museum directors have been invited to the launch, according to ministry officials who did not name any of the likely guests.

The ultramodern structure, designed by US-born Franco-Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi, also contains a separate room with space reserved for the disputed Parthenon Marbles, currently in the British Museum in London. The three-level museum, which covers a total surface area of 25,000 square meters, will first open its doors on June 17 for a press tour. This will be followed on June 18 with a visit by archaeologists and academics, then a tour by foreign reporters on June 19 and by foreign dignitaries and European Union officials on June 20, when the doors will also open to the general public.

Ministry sources said yesterday that the cost of a museum ticket would be just 1 euro for this year, rising to 5 euros in 2010. Another price rise is scheduled for 2011.

Artinfo [6]

Greeks to Elgin Heirs: Don’t Come to Acropolis Party
Published: May 21, 2009

ATHENS—One group will be banned from the festivities when Greece’s long-awaited Acropolis Museum finally opens its doors next month after a five-year delay. Foreign presidents, international dignitaries, and British Museum officials will all be in attendance, but not the descendants of Lord Thomas Elgin, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports via monstersandcritics.com. He’s the man Greece blames for removing the controversial “Elgin Marbles” from the Parthenon and selling them to the British Museum, where they remain on display.

“We have no interest in his relatives,” said Greek Culture Minister Antonis Samaris, referring to Elgin’s family while speaking at a news conference here Wednesday.

The Greek government is hoping the new museum, whose opening June 20 will be celebrated with a weeklong party and six months of a reduced admission fee of €1, will bring about the sculptures’ return. Located at the foot of the ancient Acropolis, the 215,000-square-foot structure was planned as the new home for the 525-foot-long strip of marble that adorned the Parthenon until 1801.

Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, removed the friezes when Athens was under Ottoman occupation some 200 years ago. They were then sold to the British Museum, which has refused to return them, insisting the transaction was legal. The British claim that Athens lacks a proper display space to ensure the priceless antiquities’ safety and preservation, but the Greek government believes the new museum will prove otherwise.