Greece Bog: The Acropolis Museum

June 9th, 2017

Two days ago, the group visited the Acropolis in Greece.  For the longest time, the Acropolis was the tallest point in Athens.  It is a hill near the center of the city.  There was civilization on the top of this hill before the area was a city.  Since then, it has been home to monuments dedicated to the Greek gods; it has been known because of its role in democracy; and it has survived attack. Today, we visited the Acropolis Museum which showed us more about the statues and other artifacts from around the Acropolis.

Before we were even in the museum there was plenty to see.  Right below the museum is an archaeological dig of an ancient Athens city.  There are large viewing areas while other areas have you walk on glass so that you can see the dig right below your feet.  In one of the viewing areas there is a large well where everyone tries to throw a coin in.

Our tour was guided by Anna, who has been our tour guide the whole trip.  She explained to us what was going on at the museum.  For one, all the statues atop the Acropolis are being removed and replaced with replicas to help preserve them.  The replicas are kept in the Acropolis Museum, the British Museum or the Louvre.  There are also countless artifacts, vases and other statues that have been found all around the Acropolis that are being moved into one of these three museums.  Many of the artifacts are in the British Museum.  There is discontent amongst the Greeks as to why the British have claim to so many artifacts.  Before the crisis, Greece had hired Amal Clooney, wife of George Clooney, to help in their case to bring their artifacts home.  Unfortunately, the case had to be put on hold because of budget cutbacks during the crisis.  The designers of the Acropolis Museum were not silent in the discontent, though.  They found an interesting way to make the public aware of the situation which will be discussed later on.

The walk through the museum started with a video describing the removal and restoration of artifacts from the Acropolis.  Several displays showed what the Acropolis would have looked like over the centuries.  Walking up a sloped floor, visitors could view different vases.  Many were vases that would have been filled with water and used for the last bath before someone was married.  They were covered in designs of people getting ready for the wedding.  The early ones were black figures on the red clay background while later vases were red clay figures on a painted black background.  While moving through this part of the museum, you could look through the floor into the excavation of the ancient Athens city.

The next part of the museum had all the statues together.  The designers did this so they would not be alone.  Visitors can walk amongst the statues, all posed, without glass barriers.  Some of the statues were in better conditions than others.  All pieces had been cleaned.  You can still see the paint on some of the better preserved ones.  The first ones were the older style with more Egyptian characteristics like wide eyes and bodies that were standing straight and tall.  Features were overexaggerated.  Kore statues of women would focus more on clothing than on the body at the time those statues were made.  They all had archaic smiles and the ringlets in their hair were carved with care.  One had a replica next to her to show what she would look like without the paint worn off.  Through time, Greeks developed their style where the smile disappeared and the body started to turn with a foot stepping forward.  Pictures were not allowed here because some of these pieces had not been published amongst the archaeological world.

Next you come to the Karyatids.  These female statues are the originals from the Erechtheion, a temple on the Acropolis dedicated to Athena and Poseidon.  Now copies take their place atop the Acropolis.  Each maiden has a distinct braid that are all similar but have different curls.  It took four years to clean the statues using laser technology.  One is nearly destroyed from when the Acropolis was attacked in the 1600s.  One of the six is missing from her sisters.  She is in the British Museum.

The top of the museum was designed as if visitors were walking around the Parthenon, another temple atop the Acropolis dedicated to Athena.  Everything is modern and simple, though, except the artifacts.  Simple metal columns, one for each column around the outside of the Parthenon, make their way around the top of the museum.  Between each column is the scene carved in marble that would have been between the columns of the Parthenon.  Along the inside wall of the top floor of the museum runs the panorama scene that would have run around the inside of the Parthenon.  This gives you an idea of just how big the Parthenon is.  Some scenes were destroyed in the attack, so there is a black space between those columns.  Some of those that were destroyed we know what they look like because artists sketched them, so there is a picture next to the empty space.  Other spaces are black because those scenes are in the British Museum or the Louvre.

Now, back to the designers of the museum making visitors aware of the situation with the British Museum.  Many of the scenes on the top floor and many of the statues have missing parts that may never be found so those areas are left blank, not to be restored for historical purposes.  But many of the scenes and statues have been filled in with plaster, which is a distinctly different color from the marble.  Each plaster piece represents a piece that the British Museum or the Louvre has.  While the one whole Karyatid is in the position of the British Museum, other statues may have some parts in Greece and other parts in Britain.  As far as the scenes go, the Acropolis Museum may only have the bottom corner or the face of a horse while the rest is plaster because the British Museum has the rest.  As amazing as the Acropolis is along with her history and her artifacts, it is important to me to end on this note: the majority of these artifacts need to be brought back so that all pieces are whole again.

Nicole Fox

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