The decision not to open part of Heraklion Archaeological Museum until August is a serious blow to tourism and the local economy, say tour agents and businesses in Crete. Despite the assurances of Culture Minister George Voulgarakis that Heraklion Museum would not shut at all during the tourist season and that major finds would be on view, the Ministry of Culture has now announced that the temporary exhibition is to be postponed until August 2007.
The temporary exhibition will be housed in a 350-sq.m. building with access from Hatzidakis Street, built to house the administrative services of the Museum. Work will begin immediately after Easter, continuing at least until 15 July.
The problem now is that, as the space is so small, visitors will have to enter in small groups of 200 people per hour. This means that there will be long queues, while cruise ship passengers stopping in Heraklion for 4-5 hours won’t have time to see the exhibits. Cruise ships generally have about 2,000 passengers, meaning that it would take them 10 hours! Local Culture Ministry staff admit that cruise passengers or large groups with limited time in Heraklion will not be able to visit the Museum.
The temporary exhibition will house the “Prince of the Lilies” fresco from Knossos and about 450 of the 15,000 museum exhibits, from prehistoric to Roman times. Representative figurines, Neolithic tools from sites across Crete, Prepalatial and Early Palatial pottery, seals and jewellery and the large impressive vases from Phaistos will be on display in cases. You can also see the Phaistos Disc, finds from the Palace of Zakros, double axes, the famous snake goddesses, the bull’s head with golden horns and the best-known frescos, such as the “Bull Leaping”, “La Parisienne”, the “Saffron Gatherers” and the “Blue Bird”. The exhibition will conclude with the statues of Isis, Serapis and Philosopher.
The temporary exhibition will run until autumn 2008, when the Heraklion Museum will gradually reopen following its extensive renovation. Visitors to Heraklion Archaeological Museum over the next two years must be prepared for delays if they want to admire the masterpieces of Minoan art.