October 16, 2007

Transfer of antiquities from old to new Acropolis Museum begins

Posted at 2:05 pm in Elgin Marbles, Greece Archaeology, New Acropolis Museum

Continuing coverage highlights the successful operation to move the sculptures off the Acropolis rock for the first time since they were originally created.

Athens News Agency

Transfer of antiquities from old to new Acropolis Museum begins

The first transfer of antiquities from the old Acropolis museum to the new ultra-modern facility took place on Sunday, with the relay of a 2.3-ton section of the Parthenon’s northern frieze via a system of three gigantic cranes set up on the site and its placement on the top floor of the new Museum, in the Parthenon Hall.

The sculpture, one of the heaviest exhibits to be transferred from the small outdated facility to the new Museum some 400 metres away on Makrygianni street, depicts a procession in an animal sacrifice, was packed in a specially-designed metal container that was successfully conveyed by the three cranes to its final destination in the Parthenon Hall.

The entire transfer operation of the bulkiest and heaviest exhibits is due to take three months, and will be filmed, on behalf of the New Acropolis Museum Construction Organisation (OANMA) by acclaimed director Pantelis Voulgaris and his crew.

Observing the operation on site were culture minister Michalis Liapis, the new Museum’s New York-based Swiss-born architect Bernard Tschumi, members of the Committee for the Return of the Parthenon Marbles, and the ambassadors to Greece of the other 24 EU member states, including British ambassador Simon Gass, who later attended a reception at the New Museum’s restaurant hosted by Liapis and the museum’s president.

In a symbolic gesture, Liapis signed the first bill of transport and delivery protocol, calling the commencment of the operation a “historic event with ecumenical radiance”. He explained that the new, ultra-modern museum protects, ensures and preserves the antiquities, and brings back to the forefront the demand for the restoration of all the Parthenon Marbles, ‘an ecumenical demand corresponding to that of peace and human rights”.

The first transfer took place under good weather conditions, given that such transfers will not take place when wind velocity exceeds five beaufort, while the porous statues will not be transferred when humidity is high.

The operation commenced at 9:28 a.m. and was completed by 10:45.

The specially-designed containers that will be carrying the artifacts are made of metal, with wooden crates inside covered with foam rubber to protect them from damage. Six such containers will be used in total in the crane relay to transport a total of 154 sculptures from the old to the new Museum, including the Caryatids, kouros (yong man) and kore (young woman) statues found on the Acropolis, as well as some smaller artifacts.

The total 246 sculptures that will be transferred to the New Museum weigh in at 113 tons, with the cost of transfer estimated at 1.6 million euro.

The three-crane system was selected after a study was carried out on ways to transfer the artifacts. The largest of the cranes has a height of 54 metres, with a 60-metre jib.

Traveling News

Statement from Liapis on sculpture move
Ημερομηνία καταχώρησης Sunday, October 14 @ 16:56:36 BST
Θεματική Ενότητα: ORGANIZATIONS

The Minister of Culture Mr. Michalis Liapis, following the successful transfer of a marble from the Parthenon frieze from the Old to the New Acropolis Museum, made the following statement:

“The transfer today of these masterpieces of classical civilization inspires awe and emotion.

This is a historical day of ecumenical significance. For the first time after 2,500 years the Parthenon’s sculptures are moved to the New Museum. A Museum amongst the most modern and functional museums of the world. A Museum that relates dialectically with the Sacred Rock of Acropolis, that integrates in perfect harmony with the archeological and natural surrounding environment. A Museum that protects, conserves and highlights in the best possible way these monuments.

This leads to the natural consequence of bringing up once again the request for the restitution of the unity of the Parthenon Marbles.

This is an ecumenical request. A request comparative to the requests for peace in the world and for the protection of human rights.

A debt of humanity towards culture.”

The Hindu

Acropolis statues bid adieu to hilltop home
Officials start moving them to new museum

ATHENS: Greek officials on Sunday successfully moved the first of the ancient Acropolis’ sculptural masterpieces from its hilltop home for the last 2,400 years to a new museum at the foot of the citadel.

Despite a strong breeze, three cranes lifted the 2.3-tonne block, which originally stood high on the Parthenon temple, from an old museum on the rocky hill and carried it safely 400 metres to a new glass-and-concrete Acropolis Museum. The operation took more than 90 minutes.

“Conditions are very good, the wind is not a problem,” said Alexandros Mantis, the archaeologist responsible for the world heritage site, before the start of the huge operation. “I am sure everything will go well.”

Sunday’s load was a section of the Parthenon frieze, a 160-meter strip sculpted in relief with some 360 human and 250 animal figures from a religious procession.

Using padded harnesses, the artefacts will be moved in styrofoam-filled boxes made of plywood and metal. Up to four crates will make the trip each day, with the whole transfer taking a minimum six weeks. Taking into account possible delays due to bad weather, officials say the move will be completed by early January at the latest.

The new display will reserve slots — to be filled with copies — for the works in London, as well as several small pieces held in museums throughout Europe.

The Parthenon sculptures will be exhibited on the three-level museum’s top floor, whose glass walls offer a direct view of the ancient temple.

The works will be mounted in their original alignment on a model of the Parthenon’s upper section. Designed by U.S.-based architect Bernard Tschumi, the new museum cost $182 million and is expected to officially open in late 2008. — AP

Agence France Presse

Greek authorities begin moving Acropolis statues to new home
17 hours ago

ATHENS (AFP) — Three giant cranes began the painstaking task Sunday of transferring hundreds of iconic statues and friezes from the Acropolis to an ultra-modern museum located below the ancient Athens landmark.

The operation started with the transfer of part of the frieze at the northern end of the Parthenon.

That fragment alone weighed 2.3 tonnes and in the weeks to come, the cranes will move objects as heavy as 2.5 tonnes.

Packed in a metal casing the frieze, which shows a ancient religious festival in honour of the goddess Athena, was transferred from the old museum next to the Parthenon to the new one 300 metres (984 feet) below.

Under a cloudy sky, with winds of 30 to 39 kilometres an hour (19-24 miles an hour), the three cranes passed the package down to its new home, in an operation that lasted one and a half hours.

Following the operation on site was Culture Minister Michalis Liapis, who also attended Thursday’s two-hour dry run, along with several archaeologists, engineers, restoration experts and technicians.

“It’s a moving moment,” said Liapis. “This is an international event that will soon allow the opening of the new museum where thousands of tourists will be able to admire these precious relics.”

On Thursday, the culture minister said the move would be halted if there were storms or strong winds, since the relics’ safety was the main consideration.

This unprecedented transfer of so many ancient objects was “technically very difficult and delicate”, Liapis stressed.

But windy conditions did not mar the move Sunday, and the operation’s chief engineer Kostas Zambas pronounced it a success.

“Everything passed off well, despite the wind,” Zambas told AFP.

Most of the more than 300 more ancient objects should be transferred over the next six weeks, Liapis said, weather conditions permitting. The cranes will stay on site a further six weeks to handle some smaller objects.

The operation will cost 1.6 million euros (2.2 million dollars) and has been insured to the value of 400 million euros.

The new museum, designed by Swiss-born architect Bernard Tschumi, will house Greece’s Parthenon collection and other finds from the Acropolis. It is due to open to the public in early 2008.

Spanning 25,000 square metres (nearly 270,000 square feet), the three-story structure will mainly house relics and artefacts dating back to between 800 and 500 B.C from other historical sites such as the Athena Nike temple, dedicated to the Greek goddess of victory.

Greece is still lobbying for the return of the Elgin Marbles — part of the iconic structure of the Parthenon, which were removed by agents of Britain’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Lord Elgin.

They were taken to London in the early 19th century and Greece has demanded their return for decades, but the British Museum which eventually purchased them has long argued they should remain in London.

“We hope that within three months all the relics will have been transported to the new museum,” Liapis said Thursday.

“The millions of visitors to the new museum will be our best allies for the return of the Elgin Marbles.”

One of the world’s most visited sites, the Acropolis was formally proclaimed as the pre-eminent monument on the European Cultural Heritage list of monuments on the March 26 this year.

It dates back to the golden age of Athenian democracy which began in the fifth century B.C.

The Scotsman

Mon 15 Oct 2007
Historic move leaves place for Elgin Marbles

FOR 25 centuries they have stood atop the Acropolis in Greece, treasured among the most exquisite artefacts of the ancient world. The priceless marble carvings and sculptures have withstood wars and earthquakes, looters, pollution and storms.

Yesterday, the painstaking process began to remove the first of them from the Parthenon on Acropolis Hill in the centre of Athens to a new purpose-built museum below.

Three cranes stretched 160 feet in the air to pluck the 2.5-tonne marble carving from its home, watched by a large crowd.

The 90-minute delicate operation brought to an end 2,500 years of history, and propelled the debate about the British Museum’s ownership of the Elgin Marbles firmly into the future.

“I am trembling; it touches my soul,” said pensioner Pelagia Boulamatsi, 71, unable to hold back tears as he stood with dozens of bystanders. “This is an ancient civilisation that is the foundation of the world.”

The massive stone slab, a 160m-long strip sculpted in relief with some 360 human and 250 animal figures from a religious procession, was the first piece to be removed from the ancient site. Over the next six weeks, 4,500 antiquities, mostly marble sculptures dating to the sixth and fifth centuries BC, will be shifted into the new Acropolis Museum 400 yards away at a cost of 1.6 million (£1.1 million).

The museum itself is not without controversy, but its deliberate gap where the Elgin Marbles should be, according to the Greek government, could inflame the debate further.

Engineers yesterday were simply interested in a safe and carefully choreographed transfer of priceless art – insured to the tune of 400 million.

The supervising engineer, Costas Zambas, said the move went off without a hitch, and faster than expected.

The antiquities will be wrapped in padded harnesses and packed into Styrofoam-filled boxes made of plywood and metal.

Engineering spectacle eventually gave way to politics as Greece’s culture minister, Michalis Liapis, used the event to repeat demands for the return of almost half of the Parthenon’s original 524ft frieze, now housed in the British Museum.

“Today we witnessed the successful beginning of an event of historic dimensions, which generates global emotion and strengthens the demand for the return of the antiquities,” said Mr Liapis.

“We are all obliged to intensify our efforts for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum, because only then will we have fulfilled our historic duty.”

The British ambassador to Greece, Simon Gass, declined to comment yesterday as he stood with other foreign diplomats.

Controversy over the fate of the Acropolis antiquities in the British Museum has raged since the mid-1980s, when the then ruling socialist Greek government formally demanded their return from British authorities, and the demands peaked on the eve of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

The British Museum and successive governments so far have successfully resisted the calls for repatriation.

A spokeswoman for the British Museum said last night: “The museum exists to represent all world cultures and the Parthenon sculptures are integral to that.

“Here in London they can be seen, free of charge, seven days a week, and last year they were seen by five million people.

“The museum trustees do not consider there to be any question over the legal ownership of the sculptures.”

Onlookers on the Acropolis yesterday might have been forgiven for forgetting the political arguments as the cranes transferred the first sculpture from the top part of the Parthenon temple.

The frieze depicts a religious procession in honour of Athena, the divine guardian of the city, in tribute to her purported role in saving the Greek world from the invasion of the Persian empire at the 490BC Battle of Marathon and then the 480BC naval Battle of Salamis.

The Acropolis monuments were built over a nine-year period, 447-438BC, during the “Golden Age” of the statesman Pericles. The main temple is the 40ft tall and 270ft long Parthenon.

Many statues and artefacts have already been moved indoors and replaced by replicas, after a report in the early 1980s revealed that atmospheric pollution during the past 40 years has caused more damage than in the previous 400 years, including from earthquakes and war bombardment.

The new museum has been designed by the American architect Bernard Tschumi, following a strongly contested international tender. Its construction by demolishing blocks of flats and the planned destruction of two neoclassical listed buildings has become the focus of a legal and political wrangle.

The 215,000sq ft of the new Acropolis Museum, that it is hoped will open to the public in June, is spread over three levels. The ground level features glass, transparent floors above the archeological remains of the ancient neighbourhood that was unearthed during construction.

The ground floor is also set to host temporary exhibitions and artefacts retrieved from the surrounding area.

The first floor will host the Archaic and Roman galleries, while a bar and restaurant with a spectacular view of the Acropolis will serve visitors on the mezzanine.

The Parthenon Gallery, on the building’s top level, includes a rectangular glass gallery which will showcase the temple’s marbles, replicating their exact size.

The most politically charged feature will be a section reserved for those antiquities still in the British Museum. Copies of the missing friezes will be on display behind a symbolic, transparent veil in the place of those showcased at the British Museum.

“Everybody here today got the message that the months and years ahead will focus on bringing back the real exhibits from London,” Athens media commentator Dimitra Goundi said.


THOMAS Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine, took up his post as ambassador to Constantinople in 1799. Greece had been part of the Ottoman Empire since 1453 and the destruction of classical sculptures in Athens prompted Lord Elgin to try to remove whatever he could.

In 1801 he was granted a licence as a diplomatic gesture in gratitude for Britain’s firm stance against the presence of French forces in Egypt. Lord Elgin’s work was carried out openly and with the support of local officials, both Turkish and Greek, between 1801 and 1804, says the British Museum.

What he brought back included 247ft of the original 524ft of frieze, 17 pedimental figures and various pieces of architecture, all from the Parthenon. The Louvre in Paris is one of several museums in Europe, from the Vatican to Copenhagen, that today also hold parts of the Parthenon.

An 1816 select committee of the House of Commons found Lord Elgin’s collection had been legitimately acquired and it was then taken on by the British Museum.

But controversy has raged ever since, with individual Greeks calling for the return of the sculptures as early as 1833. Under the British Museum Act 1983, the centre cannot dispose of any objects unless they are duplicates or are “unfit to be retained”.

Last year, Heidelberg University in Germany returned a small part of the Parthenon, and a retired Swedish gym teacher also gave up a sculpture from the Acropolis.

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