European Heritage Days

Journées européennes du patrimoine
Seeking a new home: old and recent stories of people on the move

Dedicated to the theme Violence and Tolerance, the 2016 European Heritage Days celebrations in Greece were traditionally organised during the last weekend of September. The celebrations included 59 events of varied content and character, bridging cultural heritage with contemporary creation and political and social awareness.

The events took place across the country – from the Athens and Piraeus metropolitan area, open air archaeological sites and museum exhibition spaces and gardens, to spaces dedicated to theatre and music, such as the Athens Concert Hall, the Piraeus Theatre, the National Opera and the Athens Conservatory. The programme included educational workshops, guided tours, exhibitions, film screenings, book readings, performances (art, dance, music), theatrical plays, graffiti, all of which had free entrance.

Ethnic music at the Museum of Greek Folk Art 

The whole action was organized by the three Directorates of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports with the coordination of the Directorate of Museums. Under the umbrella of Violence and Tolerance as the general subject, three Directorates of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports also undertook a special initiative and co-organized, under the coordination of the Directorate of Museums (Department of Archaeological Museums and Collections), a multifaceted action in the wider area of Athens and Piraeus.

Titled Seeking a new home: old and recent stories of people on the move, the action included 65 events hosted by 45 cultural organisations and its aim was to discuss a highly topical and challenging issue for the Greek society - the Refugees - through interpreting cultural heritage and archival material, but also via more experiential and artistic ways. This involved not only state owned monuments, sites and museums, but also public, non-profit or private museums and cultural organizations, as well as NGOs that deal with refugees.

 “In shifting times with burning social issues, we feel that the European Heritage Days celebrations should be in contact with people’s voices and needs,” says Dr Maria-Xeni Garezou, Head of the Archaeological Museums and Collections Department at Directorate of Museums in Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.

Cultural Heritage and Migration

Refugee theatre performance at the Piraeus Theatre 

So far, the celebrations of the European Heritage Days have been mostly addressing a local Greek audience or, more rarely, tourists that happened to be visiting the place. This year, however, the organisers made a special effort to include refugees and highlight the theme of migration. Thus, the Cycladic Museum offered a special visit to the permanent exhibition for refugees in collaboration with the UNHCR Greece. A reading event involving refugees took place in the Municipal Library of Kallithea. Finally, a group of women refugees presented a theatrical play of their journey in the Piraeus Theatre in collaboration with ActionAid.

Such a focus had two main goals, the first of which was to discuss a difficult subject that is grounded in the complex and tense social reality of contemporary times. The programme was designed to show that the facts forming the basis of the official discourse on refugees and migration, which is also very present in Greek contemporary history, are no different to the stories of people that are presently crossing the Greek borders seeking a new home. Greek and foreign experiences are part of a common human destiny through times.

The second goal was to enhance our cooperation with various types of cultural institutions and organizations in order to attain new audiences and encourage more active participation. The initiative in Athens was also a test for future undertakings, especially in view of the European Cultural Heritage Year.

For the full list of events and updates on the 2017 programme, follow the official Facebook page of the European Heritage Days festival in Greece.  

Featured photo: Dance performance at the Athens Conservatory​ 

Photos by: Fani Toumpoulidou