National museums such as the National Archaeological Museum (henceforth NAM); the Byzantine and Christian Museum (henceforth BCM); the Museum of Greek Folk Culture (henceforth MGFA) and the National Historical Museum are entrenched in this scheme; support the master narrative and present the notion of an eternal Hellenic spirit that guides the nation through different historical periods. Thus; Greek national museums perpetuate national myths and make official collective memory visible. As large proportions of collective memory is supposedly embodied in emblematic objects of national significance; the public is expecting national museums to act as treasure-houses of national memory; and this is indeed one of the main reasons instructing museum visiting. Moreover; as significant national institutions museums are normally seen as places that tell ’the truth’; whereby ’truth’ represents nationally sanctioned views of the nation’s trajectory. Ruptures; silences; difficult heritage or other voices are hard to be accepted; although significant shifts have been under way for more than a decade now.
This report maps the dynamics of establishing national museums in Greece and provides an overview of the most important national museums in the country through a discussion of selected case studies. For the purpose of this research; which was part of EuNaMus’ Mapping and Framing Institutions 1750-2010 project; a ’national museum’ is defined as an institution owned and controlled by the state; which claims and is recognised as being national and which articulates and negotiates national identity and knowledge with public exhibitions. A national public position and a focus on the national narrative are at the core of the investigation.