Opening Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission David Burger at Annual Museum Conference

Benaki Museum

Pireos 138, Athens

Wednesday, November 20, 2019, 9:30 a.m.

Καλημέρα σας.  Mr. Manginis, Ambassador Smith, friends and guests, it’s exciting for me to be here at the beautiful Benaki Museum to participate in my first Museum Conference.  Now in its ninth year, this is a flagship program of our Cultural Office, a long-time collaboration with our partners at Benaki and the British Council.

I want to warmly thank our main partners, and also thank and welcome our new partners, the French Institute and the Goethe Institute, as well as our generous sponsors, Unisystem and Microsoft.

I also want to thank, as has the Ambassador, the Ministry of Culture and the Athens Municipality for their auspices and support.  Museum exchanges and cooperation comprise a significant part of our recent Strategic Dialogue with Greece, and they’re an invaluable part of our people-to-people ties.

This conference is a prime example of our long-time commitment in supporting collaborations between museums in the United States and Greece.

We’re thrilled that the conference is growing every year, including more international speakers and participants, as well as a wider network of sponsors and supporters.

We have also launched a new website dedicated to the conference, which features information on museums and arts management throughout the year.

I think that Greeks are no strangers to Ray Oldenburg’s idea of the Third Place.  Even now, in the middle of November, the city’s squares are filled with life: young couples with their newborns, grandparents gossiping and playing backgammon, groups of kids kicking balls around, friends laughing over coffee.

In many ways, Greece’s museums already serve as bustling social hubs, indeed as the living room of society.

I feel so grateful to live in a city with such rich cultural heritage, past and present.  In just the last few months, Greece’s wealth of museum offerings has gotten even better with the Benaki’s stunningly beautiful restoration of the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor House in Kardamyli and the opening of the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation Museum in Pangrati.

The Benaki and the Goulandris museums’ cafes are always packed, a testament to the wide appeal of these public spaces as the living rooms of Greek society.

And though I’ve just arrived in Greece, I’ve heard great things about Athens’ smaller museums like the Yannis Tsarouchis Museum Foundation, The Museum of Islamic Art, and the National Observatory, which together form a diverse mosaic of Greece’s history and culture.

As Greece recovers from a difficult decade, I hope that this year’s Museum Conference will help you, the representatives of some of the top museums and cultural institutions in the country, to further enhance your offerings and advance your reputations as open, accessible, and playful places of community engagement.

I also want to offer a special thanks to our American guests, Kristin Prestegaard from the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Katrina Stacy from the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, who have come a long way to be with you here today, as well as to all of the speakers and participants for their presence and cooperation.

I wish you all great success with the conference and continuing success in the important work that your cultural institutions perform, creating a more vibrant, social, civic, and participatory world.

Ευχαριστώ πολύ.