Herakleion Archaeological Museum in Crete is one of the most important museums in Greece, even internationally. It has a beautiful collection from the famous archaeological site of Knossos. Before the crisis, the museum attracted 295,000 tourists a year; and the site attracted up to 700,000.
At least during the summer months, even the replacement temporary exhibition attracted 800-1,200 visitors a day; but there was and is a temporary collection, because the museum has been closed since 13th November 2006.
On my blog post on the non-resignation of Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos, Greek crisis blogger Heidi commented that,
we have major museums and sites closing for years and years. The Arch Mus of Herakleion – the most important museum in the country after the NAMA, has been closed for YEARS – I think since 2007? and no effort is made to make progress on the building.
Indeed, it has been ‘closed for interior renovation‘ since 13th November 2006. That is inexplicable (in terms of tourism as well as culture); and neither Heraklion Municipality nor the Ministry of Culture and Tourism really explain the years of closure beyond ‘renovation works‘.
Previous Culture Minister Georgios Voulgarakis originally promised that the museum ‘would not shut at all during the tourist season’, and that it would reopen in autumn 2008; but then it shut completely. Then Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said that it would reopen in 2010; but Museum Director Nota Demopoulou said that ‘funding [was] inadequate‘.
(Seemingly, nothing at all happened on Antonis Samaras’s watch.)
In the bureaucracy’s defence, during the renovation works, they rediscovered and had to deal with the Monastery of Saint Francis underneath the museum; so, they had to change the renovation programme; then, the original architectural/building consortium pulled out…
By this time last year, the Central Archaeological Council had approved the exterior landscaping work; and Secretary-General of Culture, Lina Mendoni expected the finally ‘approved and contracted‘ structural work to be done by last summer, when the tendering for the interior design work would begin.
The Council, the Secretary-General and the local community have been pressing for the work finally to be finished and the museum finally to be reopened; but neither has happened. The reopening of the museum cannot happen soon enough, for the sake of Crete’s public education and, especially acutely right now, for its tourist economy.
If anyone wants to visit, there is a ‘small temporary exhibition’ in a room on the northern side of the museum, which can be entered via Iosif Chatzidaki Street. It does have beautiful artefacts.