The New Acropolis Museum is due to open in Athens this week. This is a project that captures my imagination. It brings together the sculptures, inscriptions and other archaeological material from the area of the Athenian Acropolis and displays them together in a single location.
There is an ascent through the archaic sculptures dating to the sixth and early fifth centuries BCE. Statues of women, riders and scribes reflect the types of dedications that were being made in this urban sanctuary in the decades leading up to the Persian Wars. The surviving colours on the painted marble are perhaps testimony to the tidying operation that took place after the Persian destruction. Here are the architectural and sculptural remains of the early temple of Athena that was built under the Tyranny.
This display prepares the visitor for the ascent to the level where the sculptures (and casts) from the Parthenon itself are displayed. The frieze looks outwards as it would have done on the original building (and unlike the display in the Duveen Gallery in the British Museum). There is also a visual link with the Parthenon itself.
Elsewhere objects from some of the smaller sanctuaries that littered the slopes of the Acropolis are on display reminding us of the diversity of cult activity in the heart of this ancient city.
So why does this new museum capture my imagination?
It is because it gathers together archaeological material from a single area of one ancient city in one coherent display. The New Acropolis Museum is not an encyclopedic museum; there is no need for it to take that mantle. This is unashamedly an archaeological museum that presents the finds to new generations of visitors from around the world. In that sense it is a universal museum.
Image © David Gill
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