Greece bucks austerity trend with museum facelift

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Greece bucks austerity trend with museum facelift

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Greece says an overhaul of many archaeological sites and museums is helping its crisis-hit economy.

The country is 12 months into a three-year revamp at nearly 200 sites. Many sites previously lacked even basic provisions for visitors like toilets.

New shops have now been built and audio guides and brochures for the blind have been introduced.

“This particular time of crisis is a time to invest in our monuments and our history,” said Culture Minister Pavlos Yeroulanos. “You cannot do everything no matter how much money you have because the volume of work is very large, but what is important is to set the right priorities, to see where need really exists.”

Income from tourism – worth a sixth of the Greek economy – rose by 10 percent in a year.

But many smaller and less popular museums have been hit by financial cuts. Staff have been laid off, and new austerity measures threaten more job losses.

Yannis Mavrikopoulos of the union representing security guards said that many sites were closed at least part of the time because of a lack of staff. “There are many other problems too,” he added, “it’s tragic.”

The latest drive is partly financed by EU money. The European Union has agreed to a reduction in Greece’s own contribution because of the country’s financial difficulties.