December 20, 2007

The New Acropolis Museum as an unfinished project

Posted at 2:19 pm in Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

Interest in the New Acropolis Museum is increasing week by week, even though the building is not going to be completely open until later next year. Almost every article published has highlighted the significance of the new building for the case of the Elgin Marbles – yet the British Museum is still trying to pretend that it has no relevance to the issue.

People’s Daily (China)

Acropolis Museum an unfinished project
14:45, December 20, 2007

The opening of a Greek museum in September will exert pressure on Britain to return priceless artifacts plundered from Athens’ ancient Acropolis.

Located on a flat rock in the heart of Athens, the 5th-century BC structure is a beacon of antiquity that will soon be complemented by a modern museum at the southern foot of the Sacred Rock.

According to Greece’s Minister of Culture Mihalis Liapis, the transfer of antiquities to the Acropolis Museum will be finished in a month well ahead of its grand opening in September.

“We are very happy to have this museum. It is a historic event. We are very proud. It is not only a Greek event, it is international. The Acropolis is a symbol,” Liapis said.

But Liapis hopes that Britain will come to the party and return ancient relics from the Acropolis’s Parthenon in time for the September opening.

As the centerpiece of the Acropolis, the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, has been awarded prominent position in the new museum.

When it opens, temple friezes and pediments will be presented in the same sequence in the Gallery as they appeared before the Parthenon was dismantled in the 19th century. The ancient marble masterpieces were constructed and decorated between 447 and 432 BC, but were removed in the early 19th century by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, when Greece was still under Turkish Ottoman rule.

Less than half the Parthenon’s friezes remain after Elgin entourage delivered 60 percent of the Parthenon’s sculptures to the British Museum.

Although Greece has waged a marathon campaign to reclaim them, Britain refuses steadfastly to give up the stolen antiquities.

Previously Britain has argued Greece has had nowhere suitable to preserve the giant friezes.

“So we build this new museum to house the antiquities properly,” explained Dimitrios Pandermalis, president of the Organization for the Construction of the new Acropolis Museum, while giving China Daily a guided tour.

Greece is hoping confident the new Acropolis museum will presage the return of the Parthenon sculptures.

Pandermalis said negotiations between the two countries continued, but demurred that a long time is likely to pass before any agreement is reached.

Despite the uncertain proposition the Parthenon marbles will ever be returned, room has been reserved for them in the new museum.

In fact, the London pieces have been reproduced and will sit alongside the remaining originals.

The copies will be painted in a stark color indicating that they are inauthentic in a constant reminder to all and sundry of the historical wrong.

According to Pandermalis, the three-story museum just 300 meters from the Acropolis blends Greece’s ancient civilization and modern culture.

Standing in front of the glass and concrete structure, visitors will first see an excavation site of an ancient village that was discovered before construction commenced.

The discovery determined the architecture of the museum’s foundations, with the entire building set on huge columns in order to preserve these remains.

“This is the way we preserve the underground ruins,” said Pandermalis.

With the entire underground floor covered by glass, visitors can glimpse the ancient ruins as they pass through the museum.

Some 4,500 items are being moved to the museum from the cramped 19th-century Acropolis by crane in the biggest transfer of antiquities in Greek history.

The delicate operation began on October 14 and although some boxes containing artifacts are already on the upper gallery floor, it will still be some months before they’re all unpacked and installed.

Glass is widely used in the new museum to provide visitors with a panoramic view of the Acropolis.

Visitors will also see a reflection of the Parthenon on a glass wall.

Source: China Daily

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