The National Archeological Museum in Athens is home to the world’s largest collection of artifacts from Ancient Greece, and it also holds numerous artifacts from the surrounding region, dating from prehistoric times to late antiquity. You will find this museum in the capital of Greece, where it is located between Epirus Street, Bouboulinas Street, Tositsas Street and Patission Street in the Exarhia area of central Athens.
Short facts about the museum
Location: Patission Avenue, Athens
Nearest metro stations: Viktoria station, Omonoia station
Collections: Prehistoric, Sculptures, Vase and Minor Objects, Metallurgy, Santorini, Stathatos, Vlastos, Egyptian Art, Near Eastern Antiquities
The museum’s collections were reorganized as a part of the great renovation of the museum that took place in time for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
The museum’s collections have since then been divided into nine sections:
- Prehistoric collection (Neolithic, Cycladic, Mycenaean)
- Sculptures collection
- Vase and Minor Objects Collection
- Santorini findings
- Metallurgy Collection
- Stathatos Collection
- Vlastos Collection
- Egyptian Art collection
- Near Eastern Antiquities Collection
The origins of the museum
The first national archeological museum in Greece was founded in Aegina in 1829 AD by prime minister Ioannis Kapodistrias. Aegina is one of the islands in the Saronic Gulf and is situated roughly 27 kilometers from Athens. In ancient Greece, Aegina was an important Mediterranean force and a rival to Athens.
Until the mid-1800s, the archeological collection of Aegina was moved around to several exhibition places, but in 1858 an international architectural competition was announced for a new archeological museum in Greece. Central Athens was picked as the location for the new museum and construction commenced in 1866, after Eleni Tositsa had donated the land where the museum now stands. During this period of time, neo-classical designs were very popular in Europe and the museum was built in this style. The initial plans were drawn up by architect Ludwig Lange, and later modified by Panages Kalkos, Harmodios Vlachos and Ernst Ziller. In front of the building you will find a large neo-classic garden filled with sculptures.
Funded by the Greek Government, the Greek Archeological Society, the Society of Mycenae, and several individuals such as Demetrios and Nikolaos Vernardakis from Saint Petersburg, the museum was ready for exhibitions in 1889. The first curator was a prominent Greek archeologist named Valerios Stais.
The National Archeological Museum in the 21st century
- As mentioned above, the National Archeological Museum went through a major overhaul in time for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. This overhaul included both aesthetic and practical changes, including the installation of a modern air-conditioning system. Also, the damage caused by the 1999 earthquake was fixed.
- In 2005, the Minoa frescoes rooms were opened to the public.
- In 2006, the Los Angeles foundation agreed to return to Greece a 4th century BC tombstone from near Thebes and a 6th century BC votive relief from the island of Thassos. When they arrived, the artifacts were placed in the National Museum.
- In 2007, a 4th century BC golden funerary wreath and a 6th century BC marble statue of a woman was returned to Greece by the Getty Museum in California and was placed in the National Museum.
- In 2008, the collection of Egyptian antiquities and the collection of Eleni and Antonis Stathatos were opened to the public.
During World War II, the National Archeological Museum was closed. The artifacts were placed in special protective boxes and buried to save them from being destroyed or looted. The museum opened up again as soon as the war ended in 1945.