Heraklion Archaeological Museum’s collections re-exhibited
Known for its collection of Minoan artefacts, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, on Crete, is one of Greece’s oldest museums. Following the 2003-10 building renovation, during which the museum was closed, its displays were overhauled in line with modern museological practices under an EU-funded project. Spread across 27 galleries, the 8 000 artefacts are now arranged into thematic units integrated into a chronological narrative spanning seven millennia, from the Neolithic to the Roman period.
" Given that Heraklion Archaeological Museum is the museum of Minoan civilisation par excellence, the ultimate purpose of the re-exhibition project was to display the unique treasures of the museum’s Minoan collection according to modern museographical standards. The renovated museum is evolving into a significant tourist destination in Crete, and is gradually contributing to the economic growth of the whole island. "
The project entailed conservation work on artefacts, fitting new display cases, redeveloping exhibitions and setting up electromechanical installations. Around 4 800 artefacts were conserved and thousands of mountings were created. Multimedia applications for features such as video displays and games can be accessed on large screens and touchscreens at 11 points on the museum’s two floors.
Informative material produced under the project includes a publication on pluralism in Minoan culture, a leaflet for visitors and two signs at the entrance – one of them in Braille.
Minoan, Greek and Roman collections
On the ground floor, the narrative for the Minoan collection follows two themes: establishment of the palatial system, the first centralised administration in Europe; and Minoan dominance in the Aegean Sea. Vertical blue perspex panels attached to the roof create a marine wave effect to frame the display. A large wooden model of the Palace of Knossos showcases Minoan architecture and links the museum with the nearby archaeological site of Knossos.
By highlighting the achievements of Minoan civilisation in areas including the invention of writing, building of the first organised cities, administrative bureaucracy, love of nature and the status of women, the museum promotes the culture’s European character. This is underlined by an interactive application on the timelessness of Minoan myths, such as the rape of Europe by Zeus in the form of a bull, or the flight of Daedalus and Icarus, and their impact on Europe’s artistic and intellectual history.
On the first floor, the Greek and Roman collections – displayed in full for the first time – chart the development of the city-state and Cretan religious sanctuaries, giving an overview of the history of ancient Crete.
To attract interest, the collections have been placed in display cases of coloured metal and non-reflective glass featuring discreet mountings and a combination of natural and artificial light. Four cases are fitted with sensors and mechanisms to protect the exhibits in case of an earthquake.
Clear presentational structure
In contrast with the previous presentation method, in which artefacts were displayed simply as chronological markers or valuable works of art, the integrated chronological and thematic approach provides a clear structure. The thematic units cover subjects including religion, urbanism, funeral rites, trade, craft, public spectacles and diet.
Moreover, the narrative permits multiple readings of the artefacts and information, thereby encouraging people to come to the museum repeatedly and enhance their awareness of Cretan history. Guided tours, temporary exhibitions, conservation workshops, concerts, lectures, seminars for teachers and digital educational programmes for school pupils have further enhanced the museum’s popularity, as illustrated by visitor numbers, which increased from under 280 000 in 2015 to 606 881 in 2018.
Total investment and EU funding
Total investment for the project “Heraklion Archaeological Museum Re-exhibition” is EUR 7 112 273, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 7 112 273 through the “Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Research and innovation”.