October 15, 2007

First sculpture arrives at the New Acropolis Museum

Posted at 2:01 pm in Greece Archaeology, New Acropolis Museum

More coverage of the move of the first frieze panel to the New Acropolis Museum in Athens.

The Australian

Agence France-Presse
Greece’s Acropolis statues on the move
From correspondents in Athens
October 14, 2007 07:28pm

THREE giant cranes have begun the painstaking task 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 today with the transfer of part of the frieze at the northern end of the Parthenon.

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 300m below.

Under a cloudy sky, with winds of 30 to 39km/hr, the three cranes passed the package down to its new home, in an operation that lasted one and a half hours.

“Everything passed off well, despite the wind,” chief engineer for the operation Kostas Zambas said.

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.

“In case of storms or strong winds, we will stop the move because our primary consideration is to ensure the safety of the relics,” Mr Liapis said.

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

Most of the more than 300 more ancient objects should be transferred over the next six weeks, weather conditions permitting, Mr Liapis said.

The cranes will stay on site a further six weeks to handle some smaller objects.

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.

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,” Mr Liapis said.

“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 BC.


Acropolis treasures bid farewell to hilltop home
Posted : Sun, 14 Oct 2007 11:55:05 GMT
Author : DPA

Athens – Nearly 2,400 years after Pericles built the Parthenon as a monument to the cultural and political achievements of the inhabitants of Athens, its masterpieces are leaving their hill- top home for the first time – but this time legally.

Under cloudy skies and in a strong breeze, three cranes lifted a 2.3 ton marble block, which originally stood on the northern side of the Parthenon temple and carried it safely 400 metres to a new concrete-and-glass museum in just over an hour.

“We are very happy with the transfer,” said chief engineer Costas Tsambas, adding, “We believe that we treated what was in the crate with the appropriate respect and careful treatment that it deserves.”

Among the first load of antiquities to be transferred include a section of the Parthenon northern frieze, a 160-metre sculpted relief with some 360 human and 250 animal figures from a religious procession dedicated to the goddess Athina.

The operation to transfer more than 4,000 ancient statues, friezes and other artifacts from the old museum atop the Acropolis to the museum is expected to last up to three months provided there are no delays due to bad weather conditions.

The antiquities, mostly marble sculptures dating from the 5th and 6th century BC, have been insured for 400 million euros.

“The new museum will serve to protect the Parthenon and its marbles and it will renew the call for the reunification of the marbles to their birthplace … it is a world duty to civilisation,” said Greek Culture Minister Michalis Liapis before hundreds of journalists and dozens of European Union ambassadors, including Britain’s ambassador to Greece.

“These monuments are leaving the Parthenon for the first time in 2,500 years – but his time legally,” Liapis said.

Culture ministry officials hope the new 20,000 square metre museum, designed by Swiss-architect Bernard Tschumi, will help the government’s longstanding campaign to persuade Britain to return the Parthenon sculptures currently housed in the British Museum.

The new two-storey museum has been equipped with a top-floor glass hall with a wall of windows, called “The Parthenon Hall,” allowing visitors to look directly onto the Acropolis.

“Even on a day like today where there is no sunshine, the building allows for a vast array of light to spill through,” said museum architect Tschumi, adding, “The best part of this museum is the light.”

Greece’s culture minister said space has been set aside for the missing sculptures in the Parthenon Hall, which are currently housed in the British Museum, and will be replaced with replicas covered with veils.

Dozens of marble friezes and sculptures were removed from the Acropolis by British diplomat Lord Elgin some 200 years ago and are currently housed in the British Museum.

Lord Elgin acquired his collection between 1801 and 1810 and it was bought by the British Museum in 1816, being a major attraction there since.

London has argued that one of the reasons it has refused to return the antiquities to Greece is that it lacks proper facilities to ensure their safety and preservation.

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