Conference article

A Nationalist Palimpsest: Authoring the History of the Greek Nation Through Alternative Museum Narratives

Despina Catapoti
Department of Cultural Technology and Communication, University of the Aegean, Greece

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Published in: Great Narratives of the Past Traditions and Revisions in National Museums

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 78:11, p. 133-168

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Published: 2012-10-30


ISSN: 1650-3686 (print), 1650-3740 (online)


For the purposes of EUNAMUS/Work Package 3; three cases studies from Greece were examined in order to illuminate various aspects pertinent to the broader theme of the project: i.e. how national identity is built and reinforced through reference to the past as well as the use of this past in national museum exhibitions. The three cases considered were: the first exhibition hosted at the National Historical Museum of Athens in 1884. The full title was ‘Exhibition of the Monuments of the Holy Struggle’ curated by the historian Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos. The second case study was the exhibition hosted at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens in 1964. The exhibition is commonly referred to as the ‘Sculptures Collection’; the curatorial work for this project was done by Christos Karouzos and his wife; Semni Karouzos. The ‘Neolithic Exhibition’ hosted at the Archaeological Museum of Volos; in Thessaly; Central Greece was also examined in detail. The exhibition opened in 1975 and the curator was Giorgos Chourmouziades; then Ephor (director) of the Greek Archaeological Service for the region of Magnesia in Thessaly. The main conclusion drawn from the investigation of the foregoing museum exhibitions is that the authoring of Greek national history cannot be perceived as a monolithic phenomenon or an all-embracing narrative but instead; a highly complex and diverse ideology consisting of various; heterogeneous (and in certain respects; even incompatible) readings of ‘nationhood’. In an attempt to further substantiate this point; the present project has accorded a surplus of analytical weight to the exploration of the historical programme of each museum; to the in-depth examination of the disciplinary and museographic types adopted by the exhibitions’ curators to enhance their vision of national history and identity and finally; to the collection of information concerning the strategies of display and methods of visualization of all three programmes (i.e. disposition of objects; decors; lighting; guides; texts and other pedagogical material).


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