The Acropolis Museum, in Athens has managed to see almost one million visitors though its doors in the past year, thanks to its uninterrupted operation despite the pandemic.

The election of Professor Nikolaos Chr. Stampolidis as the first General Director of the Museum in early June 2021 from an International Committee saw him convey his knowledge and vision, dedicated to expanding the museum’s activities.

Most notably, promising progress has been made with the return and reunification of the architectural sculptures of the Parthenon, with the 22nd session of the Intergovernmental Committee of UNESCO for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin on 29 September 2021.

For the first time in 37 years of numerous and repeated propositions of the Committee towards Britain, a decision was taken which, in addition to the legal, right and ethical aspect of the Greek request; it also recognised its transnational/ intergovernmental character.

This decision, which was accompanied by direct actions of the Greek Prime Minister to his British counterpart and proceeded to the United Nations in December of the same year, was decisive. By 30 May the “Fagan fragment” from the A. Salinas Museum in Palermo had been returned to the Acropolis Museum by Decree of the Sicilian Authorities and its export certification by the Italian Ministry of Culture, and on 4 June 2022 it was officially and permanently reunited with the other Parthenon sculptures at the museum. The Fagan fragment is the first of a Parthenon sculpture that returns from state to state to the Acropolis Museum to be reunited, setting the example of the road that both the British Museum and the British Parliament can and should follow for the final return of the Parthenon sculptures.

The two Panathenaic Amphorae from Toronto on the celebration of the Acropolis Museum birthday on 20 June 2022. Photo: Acropolis Museum/Supplied

The Museum also published an upgraded version of the online application, with photographs and descriptions of all the frieze blocks preserved today in the Acropolis Museum and abroad making its way into the digital realm. The upgrade of the application was developed thanks to the fruitful collaboration of the Museum, the Acropolis Restoration Service and the National Center for Documentation & Electronic Content.

In other developments the gallery talk events at the museum opened doors to younger generations, as well as to special groups with a program for refugees. At the same time, the Museum renewed its educational programs, offering schools nine thematic options and an online tour while becoming more family-friendly. Dance performances in the exhibition areas in collaboration with the Greek National Opera and its participation in the 1st Sacred Music Festival, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture have also helped create a more visceral and multifaceted experience for attendees.

Visitors wear face masks as they view exhibits at the Acropolis Museum in Athens. Photo:AAP via EPA/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU

For International Women’s Day, the Museum organised, in collaboration with the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation a unique event in the Parthenon Gallery “The expatriate goddesses of the Parthenon”, with a presentation of ancient poetry and music, composed by Lena Platonos and performed by Maria Farantouri.

The Museum also started a new collaboration with the Municipality of the City of Athens, with its participation in the “This is Athens City Festival”, where it organised two evenings of wine tasting and jazz at the restaurant terrace, and also a gallery talk about the Museum exhibits related to ancient diet.

Finally, on the day of its 23rd birthday, 20 June 2022, the Acropolis Museum launched its new exhibition program “Των Αθήνηθεν άθλων. Panathenaic amphorae from Toronto, Canada back to their birthplace”, with two exquisite vessels from the Royal Ontario Museum. This is a cultural exchange taking place simultaneously with the presentation “From Athens to Toronto: A Greek Masterpiece Revealed” at the Royal Ontario Museum where the Acropolis Kore 670 is on display from March 2022.

Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni addresses guests on the celebration of the Acropolis Museum birthday on 20 June 2022. Photo: Acropolis Museum/Supplied
Guests admire the Panathenaic Amphorae from Toronto on the celebration of the Acropolis Museum birthday on 20 June 2022. Photo: Acropolis Museum/Supplied

The presentation of the two amphorae took place in a ceremony in the emblematic Parthenon Gallery, in the presence of the Minister of Culture and Sports, Mrs. Lina Mendoni, the Secretary General of Culture, Mr. George Didaskalou, the Ambassador of Canada, Mr. Marc Allen, the Acropolis Museum President of the Board of Directors, Prof. Dimitris Pandermalis, the General Director of the Acropolis Museum, Prof. Nikos Stampolidis and the Curator of Greek, Etruscan, Roman & Byzantine Collections of the Royal Ontario Museum, Mr. Paul Denis.

Updated: In a previous version we mistakenly wrote that it was the museum’s 20th anniversary, which is incorrect. The museum opened in 2009.