October 11, 2006

New Acropolis Museum to open in 2007

Posted at 8:03 pm in Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

This article looks at the history of the New Acropolis Museum project & how its completion will boost efforts to secure the restitution of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Acropolis museum on sched for 2007 opening: PM
Last Updated: Tuesday, October 10, 2006 | 4:32 PM ET
CBC Arts

A long-delayed museum designed to showcase archeological treasures from the Acropolis will open next year, with Greek officials hoping the new facility will help persuade Great Britain to return the disputed Parthenon Marbles.

The famous sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, have been at the centre of a contentious battle between Britain and Greece for decades.

“Once the museum is completed, Greece will have a very strong argument for the return of the Parthenon sculptures,” Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis said Monday.

“We are taking a very important step to finally realize a dream that unites all Greeks.”

Located at the foot of the Acropolis hill, the $182-million museum will be ready “in the first half of 2007,” Karamanlis said.

The new, two-storey venue is scheduled to open to the public by year end, after the country’s artifacts are carefully moved out of the existing cramped facility.

The museum will have room to display more than 4,000 works, or about 10 times the number currently displayed.

Legal battles, new discoveries delayed project

The sprawling glass and concrete museum was originally scheduled to open in time for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. However, legal battles and archeological discoveries made at the site during construction delayed its progress.

The new museum will incorporate these finds, with the remains of a third- to seventh-century Athenian neighbourhood shown beneath a glass cover.

The facility will also be crowned by a glass hall where all the Parthenon sculptures currently in Greek possession will be displayed. Blank spaces will be left for the marble sections held by the British Museum.

Removed by Lord Elgin

The marbles were removed by Britain’s seventh Lord Elgin in the early 19th century at a time when Greece and the Parthenon were under the control of the Ottoman Empire.

Elgin, the ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, obtained permission to remove the sculptures, though the details of the transaction are disputed. The sculptures included about half (75 metres) of the sculpted frieze that once ran around the building, 15 sculpted panels and 17 life-size marble figures.

Elgin’s move was controversial at the time and continues to be so, with British citizens divided on the issue of repatriating the artifacts to Greece.

British Museum officials have long maintained that Elgin’s actions saved the marbles from falling into disrepair, and have refused to give them back because of concerns over how the Greek government has cared for the Parthenon, which they view as irretrievably damaged.

In September, Germany’s University of Heidelberg returned to Greece a Parthenon sculpture that it had in its possession.
With files from the Associated Press.

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