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Greece’s largest museum to undergo four-year upgrade

The National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece’s largest and one of the most important of its kind in the world, will undergo a massive upgrade expected to last four years, officials said Wednesday. Inaugurated in 1889, the museum houses some of Greece’s most valuable antiquities, including the prehistoric frescoes of Thera, the Bronze Age gold treasures of Mycenae and the 2nd-century BC Antikythera Mechanism, a device believed to be the world’s oldest computer.

An international architectural competition was concluded in December to boost the capacity of the 150-year-old museum which draws over 500,000 visitors annually. The plan by David Chipperfield Architects and Greek partners Tombazis includes two new levels of subterranean galleries and a raised roof garden, designed to create 20,000 square meters of additional space.

Though no specific timeframe was announced, Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said the museum will be “completely” transformed in four years. “This museum has one of the most extraordinary collections in the world,” Chipperfield told the museum presentation. “We will try to close this building as (little) as we can” for the works, he added.

Less than a tenth of the many thousands of items in the museum’s collection are currently on display, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. He said the project will be funded with national and EU resources.

Chipperfield’s works include the Neues Museum in Berlin, the Saint Louis Art Museum in Missouri and the Museo Jumex in Mexico City. The last project of this kind in Greece was the sprawling Acropolis Museum by French-Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi, which was completed in 2009. It cost 130 million euros to build and drew over 1.7 million visitors annually before the COVID pandemic. – AFP

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