The vast and beautiful new Acropolis Museum opens its doors in Athens. The 130 million euro construction, controversial for its modernity in such an ancient city, provides 14,000 square metres of viewing space, in which are displayed more than 4,000 artefacts.
The museum was built over an excavated portion of Athens and the technical difficulties of constructing a building of this size whilst preserving the ancient ruins beneath it resulted in years of delays. It was important to have natural sunlight streaming into the building, and to incorporate a full-scale reproduction of the Acropolis and an unrestricted view of the Parthenon just a few hundred metres away. It was built at least partially in order to house the Elgin Marbles, which are currently in London’s British Museum. The marble portions of freize were removed from the Acropolis during the Ottoman occupation of Greece and sold to the British Museum in 1816. Their ownership has been in dispute almost ever since then, the British Museum traditionally arguing as a clincher that even if Greece did have a claim on the Elgin Marbles, they had no facilities for preserving such rare and priceless treasures. That argument is obviously no longer valid. The problem however is that if the Elgin Marbles were to be returned to Greece, how many other treasures might also be reclaimed from museums by countries all over the world?