ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will open a new Acropolis Museum in June, its culture minister said Wednesday, with the aim of bringing back historical monuments currently exhibited in the British Museum in London.
Greece has campaigned for decades to retrieve the Parthenon sculptures from the British Museum and said they were an integral part of one of the world’s most important monuments, but the British Museum has refused to return the treasures.
The Acropolis museum, built below the Parthenon and the other classical age marble temples of the Acropolis, has experienced years of delay with legal battles and missed deadlines plaguing its construction.
“The new Acropolis museum is the quintessence of classical culture,” Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said.
Hundreds of foreign dignitaries, artists and academics have been invited to the June 20 official inauguration of the museum.
British Museum officials have also been invited to the lavish ceremony, expected to cost 3 million euros (2.6 million pounds).
The British Museum contains roughly half of the 160-metre frieze that adorned the 2,500-year-old temple, removed 200 years ago by Lord Elgin, then British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire which ruled Greece at the time.
The late actress, turned Culture Minister Melina Mercouri launched the return campaign and the construction of the new museum to respond to arguments that Greece had no place to put the marbles if they were returned.
The museum, which expects around 2.5 million visitors a year, met with local opposition when the government marked two historic buildings for demolition and said they were hindering the visual connection from part of the new museum with the Acropolis. The dispute remains unresolved.
One of the buildings is a prime example of art deco architecture in Athens and the other belongs to music composer Vangelis Papathanasiou of Chariots of Fire fame.
Editing by Farah Master