How can the British Museum justify keeping the glories of the Acropolis? For the third time, I visit the Acropolis Museum in Athens and marvel at the brilliance of the structure, the quality of the displays and exhibits and mourn the many gaps in the collections. White reproductions show where treasures are missing. It is a stark statement.
Between 1801-05 Lord Elgin (British ambassador the the Ottoman court in Istanbul) “acquired” (the word used by the British Museum) 17 figures from the pediments of the Acropolis, and objects from other buildings on the Acropolis: the Erechtheion, the Propylaia, and the Temple of Athena Nike. Other treasures were dispersed to museums throughout Europe. The ancient buildings on the Acropolis had been ravaged over time, there’s no doubt about that. But Elgin’s looting stood out from the marauding crowd.
As Athens grew into a smoggy and much bigger city over the past 150 years the Parthenon suffered through the effects of air pollution and general neglect. But the past couple of decades have seen major efforts to protect the treasures. Scaffolding on the Parthenon has been there for as long as I can remember – the most obvious sign of constant cleaning and restoration. It reminds me of a beautiful woman with her hair in curlers, always preparing herself for her many admirers. The Acropolis Museum opened in June 2009 and is one of the most impressive and popular of all attractions in Athens for proud locals as well as tourists.
It is a carefully climate-controlled environment designed to preserve the remains of the three ages of ancient Greece. The Acropolis and its treasures are the most important in Greece, and to have them withheld from their proper place is a cultural crime.
Greeks have campaigned long and hard to have them returned, without success. The Parthenon marbles is the only collection in the museum permitted to be photographed by visitors, a smart move by the Greeks to have the message spread worldwide.
- The Acropolis Museum is open every day except Monday
- Adult entry is 5 euros
- Acropolis Museum, 15 Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, Athens 11742
Tel.: +30 210 9000900
- The main entrance of the Acropolis Museum is at the Dionysiou Areopagitou Street
- A bus drop off point for tour buses is available at Hatzichristou Street and entrance for groups is at Mitseon Street
- There’s a Metro station near by.