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PM tours Acropolis Museum construction site October 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Museums, Vote For Return Greek Marbles.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis visited the under-construction New Acropolis Museum on Monday morning, accompanied by Culture Minister George Voulgarakis, Organisation for the Construction of the New Acropolis Museum President Dimitris Pantermalis, Culture Ministry officials and archaeologists.

The Prime Minister was given a guided tour of both the old and the new section of the museum, while he also watched the Caryatides’ casts, marble figues of nymphs atop the Acropolis, being put in place.

The Prime Minister said that the new museum provides a very powerful argument to Greece in support of the return of the Parthenon Marbles, adding that a very important step is being made toward the realization of a vision shared by all Greeks and all of Greece’s friends around the world.

Karamanlis underlined that the new Acropolis Museum project has entered the finishing stretch, with construction slated for completion in the first half of 2007.

He said that it will be the most up-to-date archaeological museum in the world, and worthy of the Acropolis exhibits. Soon, said the Prime Minister, both Greek and foreign visitors will be able to admire up-close the archaeological treasures brought to light by excavations in the wider Acropolis area.

Greece’s marathon campaign to reclaim the 2,500-year-old Parthenon sculptures from Britain will be boosted and Greece hopes the landmark structure, purpose-built to showcase finds from the ancient Acropolis, will eventually host the collection, even as a permanent loan, despite repeated refusals from the British government and British Museum officials.

“Once the Museum is completed, Greece will have a very strong argument for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures,” Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said. “We are taking a very important step to finally realize a dream that unites all Greeks.”

The ancient marble masterpieces originally decorated the upper parts of the Parthenon, built between 447 and 432 B.C. They were removed and stolen in the early 19th century, when Greece was still under the Turkish Ottoman empire, by British diplomat Lord Elgin.

Athens argues the sprawling €129 million building will allow the sculptures to be reunited for the first time in 200 years, in a direct line of sight with their ancient home.

Initially scheduled for completion before the 2004 Athens Olympics, construction of the 20,000-sq. meter (215,000-sq. foot) glass and concrete Museum was delayed by long-running legal fights and new archaeological discoveries at the site.

The two-story building will be capped by a glass hall containing all the Parthenon sculptures in Greek possession. The glass walls will allow visitors a direct view of the ancient temple, some 300 meters (yards) away. Blank spaces will be left for the sculptures currently at the British Museum.

The 14,000-sq. meter (150,000-sq. foot) exhibition area will contain more than 4,000 works, 10 times the amount currently on display at a cramped Museum on the Acropolis. Most have never been exhibited before. Work will soon begin to move the larger sculptures from the old Museum to the new building.

The Museum was designed by U.S.-based architect Bernard Tschumi in collaboration with Greece’s Michael Photiades. It will incorporate, under a glass cover, building remains from a 3-7 century Athenian neighborhood discovered in the 1990s during preliminary work on the site.

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