Petition: Support the Greek Museums

OPEN LETTER FROM THE ACADEMIC COMMUNITY TO THE GREEK PRIME MINISTER

CONCERNING THE PROPOSED CHANGE OF THE LEGAL STATUS OF ΤΗΕ MAJOR PUBLIC MUSEUMS

Dear colleagues,
we are writing to ask for your support in our effort to preserve the current legal status of the five largest Greek public museums and avert their transformation into Legal Entities governed by Public Law, resulting in their severance from the Archaeological Service.The petition attached has been written on the initiative of Greek university professors, who have embraced our cause with enthusiasm. Ifyou agree with its contents, please forward your answer to the following e-mail: employees.nam@gmail.com. Very many thanks in advance,The archaeologists of the National Archaeological Museum, Athens

Dear Prime Minister,
It was with great surprise and disquiet that we were recently informed of the imminent introduction to the Greek Parliament of a bill that will change the legal status of your country’s five largest public archaeological museums (the National Archaeological Museum, the Byzantine and Christian Museum, the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, the Museum of Byzantine Culture and the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion), at present organic components of the Ministry of Culture, to Legal Entities governed by Public Law. These museums, with which we have the strongest ties, have always been an integral part of the Greek Archaeological Service. The severance of that connection consequent on such legislation would have the most undesirable consequences for the future of museums and archaeological activity in Greece.
The collections of these museums illuminate the history of all the major regions of Greece and, further, illustrate the spread of Hellenic culture far beyond the territory of the Greek state, as is especially the case with the National Archaeological Museum and the Byzantine and Christian Museum. We have followed the impressive work of all of them through their numerous exhibitions, scientific catalogues and other publications, educational and cultural activities and, of course, the fine re-exhibitions of their permanent collections – not to mention the international awards granted to them over recent decades. We observe too that both the preservation of the archaeological wealth of Greece, during a period when many museum collections worldwide are being dissolved, and the dissemination of archaeological research, owe much to these state organisations and, indeed, to the current Greek legislation under which they operate.
The proposed change in the legal status of the five museums raises deep concerns. As archaeologists, historians, museologists, art historians, members of Academies, university professors and researchers, we fear that the forthcoming conversion will degrade their primary function as centres for the safe guarding of antiquities for future generations, for research and documentation of the past, for the advancement of science and diffusion of knowledge. We believe that they will concentrate one-sidedly on services of commercial character, e.g. shops, restaurants, cafés, rental of Museum spaces, etc., services that are undoubtedly important but secondary. Museums must aim higher than economic profitability – at the education and edification of people at large.
Dear Prime Minister, we ask you not to permit the severance of these major Museums from the Archaeological Service which, together with the Archaeological Departments of the Universities, the Archaeological Society of Athens and the Foreign Archaeological Schools, has been at the forefront of the development of Archaeological Science. On the contrary, we invite you to further strengthen them with personnel, and with financial and technical resources. It is, after all, accepted in international archaeological and museum practice (and evident in the related bibliography) that museum collections should be treated as inseparable from their historical and excavation (and consequently also administrative and managerial) context and should in no way be divorced from it. Do not exclude the archaeological collections of Museums and Ephorates of Antiquities from the benefits and duties of joint management, which will enable ancient Greek and Byzantine material culture to remain what we all wish it to be: a common cultural heritage.
The transformation of public museums into Legal Entities governed by Public Law would run completely counter to their long history and tradition as public assets, fatally change their character and compromise their key role in society.

Respectfully,

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