"...It is true that the French have taken statues and paintings to Italy; but they have not mutilated temples to appropriate the bas-reliefs; they have simply followed the example of the Romans, who despoiled Greece of masterworks of painting and sculpture. The monuments of Athens, torn from the locations for which they were created, will not only lose their beauty in a relative sense, but they will be materially diminished. Only light reveals the delicacy of certain lines and colors: now, this light is lacking beneath English skies, these lines and colors will vanish, or remain hidden..."
Voted Best Museum in the World for 2017 by TripAdvisor, the New Acropolis Museum houses priceless finds from the Acropolis monuments that represent its history, and function as the most important religious center of ancient Athens. On the ground level, the visitors can see extended remnants of the ancient city, revealed with the excavations that are displayed under the specially-made glass floor, as well as significant finds deriving from the slopes of Acropolis.
On the first level there are finds from the Acropolis during the Mycenean and Geometric era, exhibition of archaic items, architectural structures and sculptures from Propylaea, from the temple of Athena Nike and Erechtheion, as well as works dating from the late ancient period to the early Christian years. The restaurant, the Museum shop and bookstore, as well as balconies with the view of the exhibits on the main and first level as well as a digital media area are on the second level. In the Parthenon Gallery on the third level, the frieze, the metopes and the temple’s pedimentsare on display. The museum offers an area for occasional exhibitions and cultural events, an amphitheater, an internet hall and an information center.
The monuments of the Acropolis have withstood the ravages of time. Foreign travelers visiting the monuments depicted the classical buildings as being intact, until the middle of the 17th c., when the Propylaea was blown up while being used as ammunition depot by the Turks. Thirty years later, the Ottoman occupation forces dismantled the neighboring Temple of Athena Nike to use its materials to strengthen the fortification of the Acropolis. The most fatal year, however, for the Acropolis, was 1687, when many of Parthenon’s architectural elements were blown into the air and fell in heaps around the Hill of the Acropolis, caused by a bomb from the Venetian forces under Morozini. Foreign visitors would search through the rubble and take fragments of the fallen sculptures as souvenirs. It was in the 19th c. that Lord Elgin forcefully removed intact sculpture and architectural elements from the frieze, the metopes and the pediments of the building.
Immediately after the founding of the Greek State, discussions about the construction of an Acropolis Museum on the Hill of the Acropolis began. In 1863, it was decided that the Museum be constructed on a site to the southeast of the Parthenon and foundations were laid in 1865. The plan for the Museum had provided that its height not surpasses the height of the stylobate of the Parthenon.
With only 800 sq m of floor space, the building was rapidly shown to be inadequate to accommodate the findings from the large excavations on the Acropolis that began in 1886. A second museum was announced in 1888, the so-called Little Museum. By the 1970s, the Museum could not cope satisfactorily with the large numbers of visitors.
The need for a new Acropolis Museum was first conceived by the Greek statesman Constantinos Karamanlis in 1976 who also selected the site, upon which the Museum was finally built, decades later. For these reasons, several architectural competitions were conducted without success. In 1989, Melina Mercouri, who, as Minister of Culture, inextricably identified her policies with the claim for the return of the Parthenon Sculpture from the British Museum, initiated an international architectural competition. The results of this competition were annulled following the discovery of a large urban settlement on the site dating from Archaic to Early Christian Athens. This discovery now needed to be integrated into the New Museum that was to be built.
In the year 2000, a new tender was realized in accord with the Directives of the European Union. It came to fruition with the awarding of the design award to Bernard Tschumi along with Michalis Photiadis and their associates and the completion of construction in 2007.
Today, the Acropolis Museum has a total area of 25,000 sq m, with exhibition space of over 14,000 sq m, ten times more than that of the old museum on the Hill of the Acropolis. The museum offers all the amenities expected in a 21st c. international museum.
After crossing the ground floor lobby towards the turn styles of the Museum, the first collection lies before the visitor. An ascending wide glass-floored gallery presents finds from the slopes of the Acropolis. On the left, finds from some of the key sanctuaries of the slopes are exhibited. On the right, finds from the smaller sanctuaries and the settlements that developed on the slopes of the Hill are displayed. Vases from the Sanctuary of Nymphe, the relief of Telemachos, theatrical masks and the treasure of Aphrodite among others, provide an introduction to the larger sanctuaries and the ceremonies associated with them.
The visitor is drawn up towards the monumental staircase at the end of the glass-floored ramp by the large architectural sculptures of the pediment of the Hekatompedon, the first large temple of the Goddess Athena on the Acropolis. The tour of the first-floor galleries begins at the northeast corner, where archaeological finds and a scale model make clear the significance of the Acropolis in the Mycenaean Period both as a residential area and as the seat of the local ruler.
The shift in the status of the Acropolis to an important religious center is signaled by the finds from the Geometric period. This development is consolidated in the mind of the visitor, with the viewing of the Hekatompedon pediment sculptures at close range, where a scene of a lion entwined in battle with a bull is presented. The visitor then moves to the south side of the Gallery where the richness and range of architectural sculptures, principally free-standing votives are placed. Depictions of young women (the Korai), the horse riders (the Ippeis) and many others provide a striking picture of the Acropolis in the Archaic Period. In the same Gallery, close to the exhibition of the Korai, the visitor is presented with the commanding sculptures of the pediment of the Ancient Temple of Athena Polias.
For the first time, visitors to the Archaic Gallery are afforded the opportunity to view exhibits from all sides as 3-D exhibits. With the benefit of the changing natural light, visitors can discern and discover the delicate surface variations of the sculptures and select the vantage point from which to observe the exhibits. The visitor moves on to the close of the Archaic collection, with the display and narrative about the Persian disaster on the Acropolis, and is prepared for the next collection – that of the so-called Severe Style. Turning back to look at the Gallery the visitor is likely to be impressed with the beautiful view of the sculptures among the tall columns of the Archaic Gallery.
Former US President Obama on his 2016 visit at the Acropolis Museum.
The Caryatids --or Kores-- of the Erectheion.
Take the stairs, escalator or elevator to reach the second floor where the Museum Restaurant operates, but where you can also have panoramic views of the Archaic Gallery and the Gallery of the Slopes below from the balconies.
Another level up using either the staircase, the escalator or the elevator and you'll find yourselves in the atrium of the Parthenon Gallery. Here one can observe a video presentation about the Parthenon, and access information about the sculptural decoration of the monument. The installation of the Parthenon frieze on the rectangular cement core that has exactly the same dimensions as the cella of the Parthenon enables a comprehensive viewing of the details of the frieze as one takes the perimetric walk of the Gallery.
The narrative of the story of the Panathenaic Procession is pieced together with a combination of the original blocks of the frieze and cast copies of the pieces in London. The metopes of the Parthenon are mounted in their correct order between the perimetric columns of the Gallery and the pediment sculptures, east and west, are displayed in their respective places. The descent of the visitor back to the first floor to the last gallery of the Museum, affords views of unique works that became prototypes for subsequent periods from antiquity to today. It is now possible to see the coffered ceiling of the Propylaea and the sculptures from the parapet of the Temple of Athena Nike, and finally the Caryatids --or Kores-- of the Erectheion at close proximity on the balcony overlooking the Slopes Gallery. Reliefs of Athenian decrees, impressive portraits, Roman copies of classical masterpieces and depictions of philosophers and historical figures cover a period from 5th c. BC to 5th c. AD. The visitor then descends the monumental staircase, crossing the Gallery of the Slopes once again towards the Museum exit.
"Riders" from the Panathenaea Procession.
Visitors can begin their tour of the Museum from the on-site archaeological excavation that lies within the Museum. When conservation of the remains within the excavation is completed and metal ramps above the excavation installed, visitors will be able to walk among – or rather above the remains of the ancient neighborhood. Assisted by key information points at selected vantage spots, visitors will gain an understanding of life in the ancient neighborhood. The excavation provides the opportunity to visitors to appreciate both the masterpieces of the Acropolis in the upper levels of the Museum against the remains of the day to day lives of the people that lived in the shadow of the Acropolis over various periods. Museum visitors have access to a range of visitor services including the ground floor café and 2nd floor restaurant–café with its panoramic views of the Acropolis. A temporary exhibition gallery, auditorium, a virtual reality theater and two Museum shops assure a high standard of visitor experience in the Museum.