Friday, December 28, 2012

Chania Archaeological Museum, Crete, September 2011

The Archaeological Museum in Chania was founded in 1962, after the building it is in had served as a store house, a cinema and a mosque (dedicated to Yussuf Pasha) during various times in the island's history. The building was originally built as the church of St. Francis of the Franciscan monastery most likely established in the C13th and displays rare Mediterranean Gothic features.

We visited in September 2011, on the back of the 14th National Speleological Meeting… excerpts from my diary follow:

After so many years, I get to go to the Chania Museum. The visit was made in far from ideal conditions – not enough time and both girls with us. The museum itself is built / housed in the old Franciscan church a the centre of an old Franciscan monastery dating to the 13th Century, if I am not mistaken.

Unfortunately, the guards were not so well informed as to what is original and what is restoration, which is a pity as I am not sure I have seen better gothic ribbed vaulting in Greece.

Archaeological Museum of Chania, Crete, September 2011
General view of the nave / main hall
Cretan gothic at the Archaeological Museum of Chania, September 2011
Gothic arches in the museum
Garden of the Chania Archaeological Museum, Ottoman ablution fountain, September 2011
Ablution fountain in the garden
The tourists from Northern Europe have no idea of the rarity or peculiarity of this and indeed of all gothic features. The museum itself has finds from all over western Crete, famously from the palace at Kydonia itself and from various other locations. It also houses the Mitsotakis collection, which is basically huge and spans all eras of Greek history. Especially notable is a bronze bowl, bearing an inscription in Linear A – apparently the only surviving bronze object to have been thus inscribed. The LED lights positioned to highlight the inscription were not working, so I did not actually see it well enough to photograph.

Bronze bowl with Linear A inscription, Chania, September 2011
The bronze bowl, suffering from the LED malfunction
Adorants from the Mitsotakis Collection, Chania Archaeological Museum, September 2011
Bronze adorants from the Mitsotakis collection
Unfortunately, beyond the Mitsotakis collection, very little else is published and therefore very little else is permitted to be photographed. The bull offerings from a rural sanctuary in the Chania prefecture are actually unpublished and not allowed to be photographed, and yet it is in such small letters that unless the guard is actually next to you it is very difficult to know that you have gone astray. 

An image of K and the girls in front of an exhibit in the Chania Archaeological Museum with many bulls from a rural sanctuary
For me, and no doubt for many Minoan fans, the highlight of the museum is on the left about a third of the way in – a sealing impression, in clay, showing the so called Lord of Kydonia – an amazingly crafted scene, which may indeed represent the town of Chania, some three and a half thousand years ago…

The Chania sealing (Master Impression), Chania Archaeological Museum, September 2011
The Lord of Kydonia

All about the the Chania sealing (Master Impression), Chania Archaeological Museum, September 2011 and explanation:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Back to the Acropolis Museum, December 2012

So last week I went back to the museum... and it’s time for something positive, this being the season of goodwill and all.

I remember my three major complaints being the photography ban, the lack of printed and explanatory information and the lack of children oriented materials.
Image of sign outside New Acropolis Museum showing that photography is forbidden
No photography sign, outside the New Acropolis Museum
Image of the New Acropolis Museum entrance, with pottery left and right, the Archaic room ahead and the Caryatids above and a very prominent no photography sign
Main entrance hall of the New Acropolis Museum, with prominent no photography reminder
Well, having gone on Saturday 15 December (a normal, pay to enter day) with the girls, we had the museum essentially to ourselves – up in the Parthenon gallery we walked round the whole thing twice, only seeing other people towards the end of our tour. An experience both satisfying and slightly worrying at the same time.
My girls alone in the Hellenistic/Roman hall of the New Acropolis Museum - In the distance Praxiteles' huge head of Artemis
All the Hellenistic and Roman era to ourselves...
The major changes I noticed from the summer of 2009:

1. The Kritios Boy seems to have been raised on his pedestal to a much higher level. Can’t imagine why, but, there you have it. Blonde Boy also seems to have a new perch...

Archaic room, from behind the Blonde Boy and the Kritios Boy
Kritios boy, on a new perch (2012) - compare with the image below (2009)

Image of the back of the Blonde Boy's head and the back of the Kritios boy

2. There is now material for kids to read or have read to them, in big letters, bright colours and targeted at them. So – yes, the museum is currently better for kids than it was three years ago. Can it be better yet? I think so, but this is a good first step.

3. (I took about 50 photos and hardly anyone minded, shhh…)

4. In 2009, I had a very specific complaint about the lack of “how” – well, in the archaic sculpture room, there is now a very nice display of marble-working tools along with an example of how each one left its mark on the marble. There was a similar display about the various minerals used to colour the marble, where they came from and how they were prepared to be applied.
A display of tools of the marble worker in the new acropolis museum
Tools of marbleworking and the marks they make

So – the museum is getting better. I am more enthusiastic, and I can’t wait to go back. Oh, and as a coda: Ariadne, at 45 months old told me the next day that the sixth Caryatid should come back from London to be with her sisters. It’s not right that she’s far away from them. I had explained that the pedestal is empty because one of the girls has gone to London to another museum, in a totally non-judgmental and neutral way.