As it gears up to celebrate the ninth anniversary of its official opening on June 20 the Acropolis Museum in Athens is making plans to usher in the digital era, with a judicial use of technology to enhance the experience offered to the roughly 6,000-7,000 visitors that pass through its doors each day.
Talking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) radio station Praktorio 104.9 FM on Tuesday, the museum’s director Prof. Dimitris Pandermalis stressed it needs to move with the times and make changes — including a ban on the use of plastic straws in its restaurant and bars.
“Our general view is that the museum needs changes, needs movement and life in order to meet the expectations of visitors. The visitor, when he or she comes, wants to see something more vibrant in the museum and I think to some degree this is achieved.
“Of course, the dialogue with the Acropolis Museum is always current and relevant, it is a great thing to be able to see the sculptures of the Parthenon at close quarters and the Parthenon itself on the hill,” he noted.
On plastic straws, he said that the museum restaurant had already stopped providing them when serving drinks and coffees, except to customers that insisted they could not drink their beverage any other way. For these, he added, there will be a period of transition.
“I think in a short while [plastic straws] will have entirely disappeared from the museum’s catering areas,” Pandermalis said, adding that it appears to be a policy willingly accepted by the museum’s international visitors.
On the introduction of digital media in the exhibitions, Pandermalis said that this will be carefully done and described it as an “important wager”.
“At the moment, the exhibition on Elefsina is underway. For the first time, Elefsina is coming to the fore with some very significant finds and I think this allows visitors to glimpse an additional dimension of the ancient world. At the same time, various activities are being held in the Museum, we are constantly increasing the digital presentations in the galleries,” he said.
“In every case, the introduction of new technologies must be balanced and the authenticity of the originals protected because the new technologies cannot operate at the expense of authenticity,” he noted.
“The museum wants to use cutting-edge media to lead visitors to that which is the real, genuine, original, three-dimensional, actual museum exhibit.”
Asked whether the current habits of visitors in the digital era of instant gratification and short attention spans present a challenge, Pandermalis agreed that it was a crucial issue but one that the Acropolis Museum looked at from a different angle.
“As the years pass, so all of us become more impatient and more in a hurry but I would like to say that the secret in this case lies in the exhibits themselves, which are inexhaustible. I have been here for 20 years and each time, I see something new. These works are not run-of-the-mill, average pieces, they are exceptional masterpieces that shaped and served as the foundation for Western civilization,” he pointed out.
He also announced that plans were already being made for the museum’s 10th anniversary in 2019, for which there would be several activities and improvements, focusing mainly on the excavation at the museum that will last for at least a year.
“I hope that this time next year we will be able to invite people to visit the museum’s archaeological site. It will be like finding yourself in a neighborhood of ancient Athens, something that is very important since it will complete what we call the ‘museum experience’, which will become richer because the everyday life of Athenians will be added, in addition to the masterpieces in the museum,” he said.