A test run for an ambitious project to relocate thousands of treasured antiquities from the Acropolis to the new Acropolis Museum was completed successfully yesterday, officials said.
The exercise was in preparation for the real test on Sunday, when cranes will start moving the first of some 4,500 ancient artifacts into the museum designed by US-based architect Bernard Tschumi and due to open fully to the public late next year.
Yesterday’s operation lasted two-and-half hours and involved three 50-meter cranes slowly moving a 3-ton block of marble into the top floor of the museum.
“If we had put a cup of coffee on top of the crate, it would have stayed in place,” said Costas Zambas, the engineer supervising the move.
To ensure that no harm comes to the artifacts – insured for –400 million – they will be carefully padded and boxed and transferred extremely slowly, meaning the process will take several weeks. But officials were confident that the antiquities will all be in their new home by early next year.
“Within three months from today, the new museum will host the artifacts which will be moved for the first time in 2,500 years – at least the first time legally,” Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said, referring to the removal of pieces of the Parthenon by Britain’s Lord Elgin 200 years ago.
According to the director of the new museum, Dimitris Pantermalis, the absence of the Parthenon Marbles – in the British Museum since their removal by Elgin – “is the most eloquent way to present the problem.” “We want visitors to wonder where these artifacts are,” he said.
On Sunday morning, when the relocation project is set to begin, cranes are to move a 2,500-year-old marble block, weighing 2.3 tons, from the Parthenon frieze. Most of the artifacts date to the 6th and 5th centuries BC.
The entire move – described by Liapis yesterday as “an historic event of major national importance” – is expected to cost 1.6 million euros.