18 December, 2007
Prime minister Costas Karamanlis, who leaves later in the day for a three-day state visit to Moscow, visited the New Acropolis Museum on Monday morning,
"The New Acropolis Museum, above all, reminds us of the duty to reunify the Parthenon Marbles, this lofty monument of the World Cultural Heritage, and in a resounding manner," Karamanlis said during a tour of the new museum, as a massive operation to transfer the antiquities from the outdated museum on the Acropolis Hill to the new venue was nearing its completion.
"The construction and operation of the New Acropolis Museum vitiates the the final argument of those who refuse the fulfillment of this just demand," Karamanlis stressed, in a reference to the British Museum.
"The conditions are now ripe. The demand for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to the place where the belong, the demand that (the late statesman) Constantine Karamanlis put forward as a national goal and which the late Melina Mercouri, as minister of culture, rendered as her life's goal and contributed decisively to making it a universal demand, can become action in our generation," Karamanlis said.
Karamanlis, accompanied by culture minister Michalis Liapis, was given a tour of the new Museum by New Acropolis Museum Organization president and archaeologist Prof. Dimitris Pantermalis and Acropolis curator Alexandros Mantis.
The 5th century B.C. friezes, or Parthenon Marbles, were removed from the Parthenon by the British diplomat Lord Elgin with the permission of the local Ottoman occupation authorities in the early 19th century. Elgin removed the priceless statues and other parts of the Parthenon temple and later sold them to the British Museum in 1816, where they have been housed since.
The ground floor of the New Acropolis Museum will be open to the public for two hours daily beginning on Friday and running through the Easter holiday, it was announced on Monday.
On Friday, December 21, the Museum will open its doors to children and adults, who will be able to view an exhibit with children's items from antiquity and funds unearthed during digging from beneath the Museum.
Source: Athens News Agency