The Unbearable Heaviness of Antiquity: Museum Architecture in Modern Greece

The Unbearable Heaviness of Antiquity: Museum Architecture in Modern Greece

Dr. Eleni Bastéa, UNM
May 14, 2017

Most travel to Greece, actual or imagined, includes visits to museums and archaeological sites. Deep inside, we all yearn to come closer to the country’s ancient and celebrated past, to be transported to the legendary ages of Minos of Crete, Pericles of Athens, or Alexander the Great of Macedonia. But then what? What about the present? Can we also learn about the present by visiting museums of history and archaeology? In this illustrated lecture, we will visit some of the country’s best museums, ranging from large and famous, like the Acropolis Museum, to lesser known ones, like the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki and the Palace of the Grand Master on the island of Rhodes. Together, we will visit the buildings that house these museums and consider how the exhibit designs bring the past to life. At the same time, we will reflect on how we, as visitors, influence and are influenced by these presentations and interpretations of historical epochs. At the end of our journey, we will come to understand better how the past, venerable though it is, always depends on today’s context for its interpretation.

Dr. Eleni Bastéa is the Regents’ Professor of Architecture and Director of the International Studies Institute at the University of New Mexico. A native of Thessaloniki, she holds a BA in art history from Bryn Mawr College, a Master’s of Architecture, and a Ph.D. in architectural history, both from the University of California at Berkeley. The recipient of several grants and awards, she lectures internationally on memory and architecture, cities and literature, and modern Greece & Turkey. Bastéa is the author of The Creation of Modern Athens: Planning the Myth (Cambridge University Press, 2000), also published in Greek in 2008 (author’s translation). She is the editor and a contributing author of the anthology Memory and Architecture (University of New Mexico Press, 2004). Her first book of poetry, Venice without Gondolas, was published by Finishing Line Press, 2013. She has appeared in two English-language documentaries: Smyrna: The Destruction of a Cosmopolitan City, 1900-1922 and From Both Sides of the Aegean, both directed by Maria Iliou, Proteus production, 2012.

Supported by Sandia National Labs, Haverland Carter Lifestyle Group, and Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union