Façade of the National Archaeological museum of Athens [Source]
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens (Greek: Εθνικό Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο) in Athens houses some of the most important artifacts from a variety of archaeological locations around Greece from prehistory to late antiquity. It is considered one of the great museums in the world and contains the richest collection of artifacts from the Greek antiquity worldwide . It is situated in the Exarhia area in central Athens between the streets Epirus, Bouboulina and Tositsa while its entrance is on the Patission Avenue adjacent to the historical building of the Athens Polytechnic. Today the museum is directed by Nikolaos Kaltsas.
The first national archaeological museum in Greece was established by prime minister of Greece Ioannis Kapodistrias in Aigina in 1829. Since then the archaeological collection has been moved to a number of exhibition places until 1858, when an international architectural competition was announced for the location and the architectural design of the new museum . The current location was proposed and the construction of the museum's building began in 1866 and was completed in 1889 using funds from the Greek Government, the Greek Archaeological Society and the society of Mycenae. Major benefactors were Eleni Tositsa who donated the land for the building of the museum, Demetrios and Nikolaos Vernardakis from Saint Petersburg who donated a large amount for the completion of the museum.
The initial name for the museum was The Central Museum and it was renamed to its current name in 1881 by prime minister of Greece Charilaos Trikoupis . During the World War II the museum was closed and the antiquities were sealed in special protective boxes and buried, in order to avoid their destruction. In 1945 exhibits were again displayed under the direction of Christos Karouzos. The south wing of the museum houses the Epigraphic Museum with the richest collection of inscriptions in the world. The inscriptions museum expanded between 1953-1960 with the architectural designs of Patroklos Karantinos
The museum has an imposing neo-classical design which was very popular in Europe at the time and is in full accordance with the classical style artifacts that it houses. The initial plan was conceived by the architect Ludwig Lange and it was later modified by Panages Kalkos who was the main architect, Harmodios Vlachos and Ernst Ziller. At the front of the museum there is a large neo-classic design garden which is decorated with sculptures .
Expansions and renovations
The building has undergone many expansions. Most important were the construction of new east wing in the early 20th century based on the plans of Anastasios Metaxas and the erection of a two-storeyed building, designed by George Nomikos, in 1932-1939. These expansions were necessary to accommodate the rapidly expanding collection of artifacts. The most recent refurbishment of the museum took more than 1.5 years to complete, during which the museum remained completely closed. It reopened in July 2004, in time for the Athens Olympics and it included aesthetic and technical upgrade of the building, installation of a modern air-conditioning system, reorganisation of the museum's collection and repair of the damage that the 1999 earthquake left to the building. The Minoan frescoes rooms opened to the public in 2005. Today, there is a renewed discussion regarding the need to further expand the museum to adjacent areas.
The museum's collections are organised in sections :
Some of the ancient artists whose work is presented in the museum are Myron, Scopas, Euthymides, Lydos, Agoracritus, Agasias, Cimon of Cleonae, Damophon, Aison (vase painter), Polygnotos (vase painter).
Collections include sculpture work, Loutrophoros, amphora, Hydria, Skyphos, Krater, Pelike, and lekythos vessels, Stele, frescoes, jewellery, weapons, tools, coins, toys and other ancient items.
Artifacts derive from archaeological excavations in Santorini, Mycenae, Tiryns, Dodona, Vaphio, Rhamnous, Lycosura, Aegean islands, Delos, the Temple of Aphaea in Aegina, the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia in Sparta, Pylos, Thebes, Athens, the Antikythera wreck and from various other places across Greece.
The museum houses the archaic terracota statuette daidala that inspired the designers of the 2004 Athens Olympics maskots Athena and Phevos.
Two of the newest exhibits of the museum include a 4th century BC golden funenary wreath and a 6th century BC marble statue of a woman, which were returned as stolen artifacts to Greece in 2007 by the Getty Museum in California, after a 10 year-old legal dispute between the Getty Center and the Greek Government . One year earlier, the Los Angeles foundation agreed to return a 4th century BC tombstone from near Thebes and a 6th century BC votive relief from the island of Thassos .
There is also a large number of artifacts that are currently not exhibited, at the museum's vast storage rooms.
228 : Boeotian pithos-amphora
424 : Kabeiric skyphos.
841 : Melian krater.
1426 : Warrior Vase
1736 : Head of Anytos.
2772 : Statuette of a boy. Marble
5753 : Statue of a sleeping Eros.
7735 : Figurine of a dog
7736 : Figurine of a locust
9442 : Iron scissors.
10424 : Kabeiric Skyphos
11761 : Bronze statuette of Poseidon.
12587 : Column Krater, Sophilos
13644 : Lemnian stele
14984 : Bronze statuette of Zeus.
15209 : Statuette of Dionysos.
16464 : Painted wooden plaque of Pitsa.
16640 : Anthropomorphic pendant.
16776 : Infant Eros statuette.
18244 : Figurine of a mouse
18231 : Ladle
19351 : Red-figure pelike.
19363 : Attic black-figure nuptial lebes
21032 : Attic black-figure amphora.
Atlas offers the Hesperides apples to Heracles, drawing from a Lekythos, Athena painter, c. 490/480 BC, Inv. 1132..
Farewell to a warrior, "Achilles painter", attic white lekythos, 450-440 BC, found at Eretria, National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Inv. no. 1818.
Jockey of Artemision, Inv. 15177.
Stele of Dermys and Kitylos, dedicated by Amphalkes to Dermys and Kitylos from Kokali necropolis in Tanagra, early 6th century BC, National Archaeological Museum Athens NM 56
The Lemnos stele, Kaminia, (see Lemnian language)
Mask from Piraeus, 4th c. BC National Museum of Athens
Herodes Atticus bust from his villa at Kephissia. mid 2nd c. AD Inv. no. 4810
Library of archaeology
The museum houses a 118 year old library of archeology with rare ancient art, science and philosophy books and publications. The library holds some 20,000 volumes, including rare editions dating to the 17th century. The collection of archaeology books is the richest of its kind in Greece. The Library is currently under renovation funded by the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation. Its renovation will be completed in December 2007 and the library will be renamed after Alexander Onassis .
Photographic archive and chemistry laboratories
Organises temporary exhibitions in the museum and abroad
Hosts a large number of archaeology related lectures in its lecture-hall annually.
The museum is easily accessible with the Athens metro. It is five minute walk from Viktoria station and a 10 minute walk from Omonoia station. Access is free for children up to 6 year old and students. The museum houses a large recently renovated gift shop with artifact replicas and a popular cafe for tourists in the sculpture garden. The museum is fully wheelchair accessible. There are also facilities and guides for hearing impaired visitors.
Current temporary exhibitions
The much awaited Praxiteles exhibition official openings was on the 25th July 2007. The exhibiton has been before presented at the Louvre in Paris, France with great success. The Athens exhibition will be even richer and more complete than the previous exhibitions, as exhibits that were not allowed to exit the museum for safety reasons will be exhibited along with the artifacts from other museums from Greece and the world in a total of 75 sculptures of the renowned ancient sculptor .
Nikolaos Kaltsas, Sculpture in the National Archaeological Museum Athens , J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003, ISBN: 0892366869