Museums in Greece marked the European Museum Night and International Museum Day during this weekend with a series of special events including free exhibitions, workshops, special performances and concerts.
At the Acropolis Museum which remained open until midnight on Saturday, visitors "travelled" back to ancient Greece through gallery tours entitled "Astral divinities: Images, beliefs, cult," while in its courtyard hundreds of people enjoyed a live jazz concert under the light of stars.
"The purpose of such celebratory events is to attract more Greeks and tourists to museums, to consider them as a place of pleasure. Something different from their daily routine. When visiting a museum, you don't see the 'hot' reality, but the historic one which helps get a third dimension of life," President of the Acropolis Museum Dimitris Pantermalis told Xinhua.
Maria Nomikou, student at Law University, who visited the museum for the European Night celebration, was thrilled with the idea. "The Parthenon, a unique monument in the world, is more atmospheric at night. So, apart from tourists, it is beautiful for Greeks as well to see such events take place in our city," she said.
For tourist Chris Whittington who came from Los Angeles and arrived at Piraeus port on a cruise ship on Friday evening said it was a beautiful surprise to attend such an event. "I've only been in Athens only one day and I loved it. I love the food, Acropolis was wonderful, and I love jazz. I think it is a good thing, it is a free concert," he said.
International Museum Day is organized worldwide on May 18 by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) to raise awareness on how important museums are in the development of society.
For this year's celebration of the 38th International Museum Day, the theme is "Museums for a sustainable society." The question that comes up is how museums can contribute to a society that is in the turmoil of economic crisis.
"Due to the economic recession, it's very hard to cope with, but we see it as a bet to win," museologist Maria Florou, head of the new Industrial Gas Museum in central Athens, told Xinhua.
The Industrial Gas Museum, which opened its doors to the public in 2013, nearly 30 years after the gas industry shut down, has been appointed by the "International Council of Museums (ICOM) as the "museum of honor" for the International Museum Day 2015.
While it is a new museum, it has attracted public's attention due to its activities.
As Florou pointed out, the goal is to offer activities with quality for families and tourists. "Family is the core of shaping a child's character from a very early age," she noted.
According to Florou, a museum must have a participatory character and involve in an active way visitors. "As we all know, culture upgrades the quality of our life," she said.
In line with Florou, Pantermalis highlighted that museums should be strongly linked to society, pointing out the interactive connection between the two parts.
"Museums, internationally, are considered as an alternative pole of attraction. While other institutions fade out, museums gain public's interest. We can see that from the increasing number of visits. In the last three years, the Acropolis Museum is very pleased to ascertain the increasing rate of visits, which derives from our efforts to be open to public," Pantermalis highlighted.
According to the latest figures by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), there has been a significant increase in visitors by 2.3 percent and in revenues by 19.2 percent at Greek museums and archaeological sites across the country in January 2015 in comparison to January 2014.