The creation of the first archaeological collections and the first museums

The first Mycenaean Hall of the National Archaeological Museum

Kyriakos Pittakis, the General Curator of Antiquities, describes vividly the transfer of the private collection of King Otto and Queen Amalia in 1863, from the palace to his office in the Ministry of Education. He emphasizes the difficulties of keeping the antiquities safe, due to lack of a suitable museum. The documents concerning the Numismatic Collection contain information about various cases of ancient coins coming from excavations and private donators. The construction of the National Archaeological Museum lasted twenty three years, from 1866 to 1889. The documents of this period include various royal decrees, which placed specific collections inside the new museum, as, for instance, the collection of Egyptian antiquities. Similar royal decrees deal with the foundation of the National Gallery in 1897 and the appointment of its first Curator a few years later.
During the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the small and large archaeological collections at Greek regional towns were housed in public buildings or even in private houses. There are numerous references of local schools, churches, police stations, town halls, marketplaces, used as temporary museums. In other cases, the Greek state hired private houses or shops in order to ensure a safe shelter for the ancient remains.
Nowadays, the well organized contemporary museums, as places of study and knowledge, vindicate those first archaeologists, who, despite the unfavorable conditions of their era, remained devoted to the preservation of the cultural heritage, as it is witnessed by the documents of the Historical Archive.

back to the Historical Archive of the Archaeological Service

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