A Brief History of The Acropolis Museum, Athens

New Acropolis Museum
New Acropolis Museum | © Tilemahos Efthimiadis/flickr
Ethel Dilouambaka

Located at the foot of the Acropolis site, the modern-looking Acropolis Museum is home to findings from the archaeological site of the Acropolis. Today, the museum features among the top attractions of the city, and for good reason, so let’s take a trip down memory lane to learn more about it.
The first museum, built in a niche on the eastern part of the Parthenon, was constructed at the end of the 19th century beneath the level of the hill. It was there that many of the Greek world’s ancient vestiges found in and around the Acropolis were exposed, such as stone sculptures and bronze remnants from the monuments of the Acropolis and artifacts excavated on the site.

Detail of the Parthenon frieze

Because of the old museum’s limited size – 800 square meters – the Greek authorities decided in the late 1970s to build a new museum. After four major architectural competitions, US-based architect Bernard Tschumi won the tender. Working in collaboration with Greek architect Michael Photiadis, Tschumi built an impressive building raised above the ground on concrete stilts. The concrete-and-glass structure, completed in 2007 and inaugurated in 2009, lies 300 meters away from the Acropolis site, next to the Acropolis metro stop. It covers a total area of 25,000 square meters and offers all the amenities of a modern museum.

View of the new Acropolis Museum seen from the Acropolis

The ground floor of the structure leads to the first gallery, The Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis, while the vast lobby houses treasures from the hills around the Acropolis. You can also admire everyday objects used by Athenians from many historic periods.

Rear view of the Caryatids

On the first floor, visitors will find the Archaic Gallery. Covering the 7th century BC through to the end of the Persian Wars, the Archaic period coincides with the flourishing of the Ancient Greek city-states. It is also when the political culture transitioned from an aristocracy to tyranny and finally evolved into democracy. As this was also a period of numerous achievements in economics, art, and intellectual life, the Archaic Gallery has tried to reflect this with a vast gallery flooded in sunlight. Visitors get to view exhibits from all sides as three-dimensional artifacts.

Archaic Gallery

The central room of the Parthenon Gallery on the next floor allows visitors to view a video presentation about the Parthenon and details of the ornamental elements. Here, in our opinion, lies the real magic of the museum; indeed, the whole gallery is set up around the frieze of the Parthenon, which allows visitors to admire its ornamental details. The whole Panathenaic Procession is even put together through the association of the original blocks of the frieze and cast copies of those currently on display at the British Museum and the Louvre.

The tour around the museum finishes with exhibits of portraits, Roman copies of classical masterpieces and depictions of historical figures, as well as the remnants of the Sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia and votives of the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods from the 5th century BC to the 5th century AD.

Ruins at the entrance to the Acropolis Museum

All in all, the Acropolis Museum is an outstanding sight to discover; you can spend hours in its luminous galleries, and while you’re at it, why not have lunch or dinner there? With splendid views over the Acropolis and the surrounding area, you are sure to make some fantastic memories at the museum.

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