Archaeological Museum of Mycenae
The need to build a new archaeological museum to store and exhibit excavation finds from over a century’s work had become imperative by the early 1980s, when Georgios E. Mylonas in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture with characteristic wisdom chose its location on the northern slope of the Acropolis, working around objections by local representatives who wanted to build the new museum in the adjacent village.
The ingenious study prepared by architects of the Archaeological Service successfully integrated the building harmoniously into its wider natural and archaeological surroundings, offering a discreet and functional solution which provided for the storage, conservation, and study of the many finds and for serving visitors, in addition to a beautifully-arranged exhibition space.
Construction of the museum, which is configured like steps on the hillside, began in 1984 and was completed in 1997, bypassing financial problems and delays of other types. Between 1998 and 2003, when the new museum was inaugurated, around 35,000 portable finds scattered among various storage areas were transferred to its storerooms, the museological and museographic studies were prepared, and the exhibition was completed.
The museum construction project was co-funded by the European Union and the Greek state, and implemented by the Scientific Committee for Mycenae and the 4th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. Through the participation of dozens of staff members in all specializations, the decisive guidance of Ephor of Antiquities Elizabeth Spathari and the invaluable assistance of Mycenae scholars Professor Elizabeth French and academician Spyros Iakovidis, the site acquired a museum which drew 2,500 artifacts from silence and obscurity and offered them to the site’s many visitors within the framework of a didactic presentation highlighting Mycenae’s history down through time.
The exhibition unfolds in a total of four galleries arranged on two different levels, following a circular route with the aid of ramps. On the upper level, the spacious vestibule with educational material and its superb view towards the sites which once occupied the cemeteries of Mycenaean nobles forms the starting-point and conclusion to one’s visit. The first gallery, which is on the same level, presents the finds from the Mycenaeans’ public and private activities. A ramp leads visitors to the second level, which is devoted to the kingdom of the dead. Here the finds from the royal Grave Circle B, the rich cemeteries of chamber tombs, and a number of historical copies of the grave goods from royal Grave Circle A are displayed. This is followed by a section on Mycenae during historical times, and the exhibition closes with the presentation of the achievements of Mycenaean civilization.
Building the museum within the greater archaeological site also determined the presentation of finds in the exhibition, which follows the topographical arrangement of find spots, interrupted or concluded by thematic sections which aim to highlight both the crucial importance of Mycenaean civilization as well as less brilliant moments in its history. The main objective, however, is the educational dimension of the presentation, which is achieved with the help of supporting material and the latent representations of the find spots of important assemblages such as the ugly idols and the large fresco from the Religious Center, as well as the shape of the display cases for finds from the two royal grave circles. Without possessing the impressive wealth of the first rulers (which for the time being remains in the National Archaeological Museum), the local museum of Mycenae disposes of an exceptional aesthetic and harmony, managing to provide visitors to the archaeological site information which ultimately offers comprehensive knowledge concerning the capital of Agamemnon.