Benaki Museum – Pireos 138
November 29, 2018-Delivered at Podium
Minister Zorba , Mr. Manginis , Deputy Mayor Zepou , friends, it is a great pleasure to be here again, and to join the representatives of so many of Greece’s top museums and cultural organizations.
I also want to welcome in particular what I understand is the entering class of the Greek Foreign Ministry who are here as part of their cultural diplomacy educational component, and I will just say to all of you that I hope that you will have as much success and enjoyment as I have working on the cultural dimension of our diplomatic relations.
This is the eighth annual Museum Conference that we have organized in collaboration with the Benaki Museum and the British Council. And this year, our partnerships are expanding, as we welcome the Goethe Institute among the conference’s supporters. And I want to underline in particular how honored we are to have the official auspices of the Ministry of Culture, and the Athens Municipality as part of this event.
As one of the flagship programs of the U.S. Embassy’s Cultural Office, the Museum Conference offers the opportunity to exchange best practices among cultural institutions and professionals from Greece, Europe, and the United States.
This year’s conference focuses on synergies and collaborations among cultural institutions, and I want to congratulate the organizers on this very timely and important theme.
As U.S. Ambassador to Greece, I have been fortunate to travel around this beautiful country, and to visit some of the lesser known archaeological sites – like Ancient Olympia Dodoni, Mystras, Delphi, Vergina. But I have also visited some very impressive and lesser known museums – like the Yfanti Museum in Epirus right at the border with Albania, the Kalavryta Museum that I was visiting just last month, the many impressive Museums of the Piraeus Bank Foundation including the Chios Mastiha Museum, the Silversmithing Museum in Ioannina and the Natural history Museum in Stymphalia, of course the Jewish Museums in Athens and Thessaloniki, and just last weekend the Averof’s Art Museum at Metsovo.
All these visits have helped to made clear to me how Greece’s international brand is connected to its cultural heritage and treasures.
Your museums and cultural institutions are repositories of a vast history and knowledge that is of great interest not only to your citizens, but to the whole world.
Greece also has a vibrant contemporary cultural scene as the Minister and I discussed. We see it in the hundreds of performances, visual arts exhibits, film festivals, music events, and other multidisciplinary activities that happen here in Greece every year. We see it in this very museum – with world-class exhibitions like the current exhibit on Yiannis Moralis, which I cannot recommend highly enough to all of you; it’s simply superb.
This contemporary treasure is also evident in the international events that Greece hosts, including the ongoing Athens World Book Capital.
And despite the hurdles that Greece has faced in the last few years, and despite the reduced financial resources that has imposed, cultural output in this country has grown stronger and more diverse.
Many credit this vibrancy to grass roots initiatives… to synergies and cross-sectoral collaborations between institutions, civil society organizations, local governments, private foundations, companies, and many other players.
Collaborations and synergies have the power to bring together diverse resources: from audiences and volunteers, to funding. Collaborations are also a form of capital for cultural organizations. They make museums more open and equitable, and representative of their communities.
Some of those synergies are obvious – for example between tourism and cultural organizations who work together to benefit both sectors.
But some are initially unlikely – for example museums being part of the civil society response in times of natural disasters or during the refugee crisis. And some collaborations help to build bridges between countries to foster understanding, education, and social change.
I am extremely proud of the Embassy’s work in this important field, and I hope you all have the opportunity today to share your best practices in synergies and collaborations.
To conclude, I want to thank our generous partners in this conference: our host here the Benaki Museum, and our partner the British Council, and of course the Ministry of Culture and Sports, and the Athens Municipality for their auspices; and the Goethe Institute for your support.
I also want to thank our American guests: In particular, Adam Rozan, from the amazing Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. as well as all the speakers and participants today for their presence and cooperation. And Scott Stulen who will address us by video.
I wish you all great success with this conference and continuing progress in the important work that cultural institutions do to preserve and celebrate the wonders of Greek culture for all that it has given to the Western World.