Museums of Oblivion

By Hamilakis, Yannis | Antiquity, June 2011 | Go to article overview

Museums of Oblivion


Hamilakis, Yannis, Antiquity


The relationship between antiquity, archaeology and national imagination in Greece, the sacralisation of the Classical past, and the recasting of the Western Hellenism into an indigenous Hellenism have been extensively studied in the last 15 years or so (see e.g. Hamilakis 2007, 2009). In fact, Greece has proved a rich source of insights for other cases of nation-state heritage politics. The new Acropolis Museum project was bound to be shaped by the poetics of nationhood right from the start, given that its prime referent is the most sacred object of the Hellenic national imagination, the Acropolis of Athens. This site is at the same time, however, an object of veneration within the Western imagination (you only have to look at the UNESCO logo), a pilgrimage destination for millions of global tourists, with all its revenue implications, and an endlessly reproduced and modified global icon (in both senses of the word).

There is not one but many Acropoleis, on the hill in central Athens, in museums all over the world, in literature, art and cinema, in photography, and on the internet (cf. the photo-blog, www.theotheracropolis.com). There is not one but many stories that this materiality tells, and many claims and causes that this object and icon has lent itself to, some official and top-down, several unofficial, bottom-up, clandestine and intentionally provocative and controversial. And while I concur with many of the valid and interesting points that Plantzos raises in his article, I contend that the exhibition logic of the new museum, its architectural and museographic bodily affordances, cannot be understood in isolation, cannot be critiqued and deconstructed effectively, if not linked with contemporary global museum claims to the material past, and if all the other voices, interventions and provocations, beyond the official, are not taken into account.

The new museum, before it was even built, from the moment when it was simply a vision in Melina Mercouri's head, and later, a text for an international architectural competition, was linked to the cause for the restitution of the Parthenon marbles (cf. Lending 2009). The outcome, at least in its present configuration, is certainly a missed opportunity to evoke, through materiality, the multi-faceted biography of the Acropolis from the Neolithic to the present, including the history of the multiple contemporary claims and counterclaims over the site. It is a missed opportunity to display, for example, that evocative and wonderfully multi-temporal architectural fragment from the Classical Erechtheion with its 1805 Ottoman inscription in Arabic, a piece that speaks in different tongues, and across ethnic, religious and national boundaries, a living monument to a contemporary multi-cultural and multi-ethnic European capital such as Athens (Figure 1). At present, the few pre- and post-Classical remnants in the museum are drowned in the sea of Classical glory, and almost disappear under the weight of Western Classicist ideals. They are victims perhaps of the misguided belief on the part of the archaeologists in charge, that it is this Classical glory that should be projected as a primary national 'weapon' in the global negotiations of power ('To do otherwise', the director of the museum told a journalist in 2007, 'would have approached the highest level of castration'--Eleftherotypia, 2 September 2007). I would further suggest, however, that what Plantzos identifies, rightly, as the lack of archaeological context in the exhibition is also to do with the sacralisation of Classical objects (relics and sacred icons do not need captions, after all), but also with the perception, prevalent in the national imagination, that antiquities (especially anthropomorphic ones), have the status, the autonomy and the agency of persons, and they can thus 'speak for themselves'; they do not need the archaeologist and the museum curator to speak for them (cf. Hamilakis 2007).

This museum will need to be understood primarily as a material intervention within the politics of vision. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Museums of Oblivion
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.