The release of ALVA visitor figures have shown the impact of the pandemic on visitors to Oxford University Museums. The 3.3 million visitors in 2019 dropped to 887,516 in 2020. (This is still more than the number of visitors to University of Cambridge Museums.)
The ALVA figures for 2020 have shown the impact of the pandemic on museum visitors through the figures for the University of Cambridge Museums. The total number of visitors has dropped from 1.3 million in 2019 to 471,408 in 2020. However if you remove the Cambridge University Botanic Garden from the figures this leaves 277,918 visitors to all the other locations.
The ALVA figures for 2020 have been released. I have chosen the top 10 locations for the National Trust for Scotland where there is easily accessible data for 2019. I have not included Corrieshalloch Gorge (56,060), Ben Lomond (54,266), or Balmacara Estate & Lochalsh Woodland Garden (45,957). These 10 sites attracted 934,938 in 2020, down from 2.1 million in 2019.
Using the Top 10 sites for 2019, the fall is from 2.1 million to 888,159 in 2020.
The figures reflect how landscapes and gardens have been used to allow the public to re-engage with heritage sites and locations.
ALVA has released the visitor figures for 2020 and they are showing the harsh impact of the COVID-19 on the heritage visitor economy. The top 10 Historic Environment Scotland (HES) sites (for 2o2o) have dropped from just under 4.4 million visitors in 2019 to 517,210 in 2020. Edinburgh and Stirling Castles saw a fall of 87 % and Urquhart Castle saw a drop of 89 %. Some sites, unsurprisingly, given the circumstances, saw a fall of over 90 %.
Using the Top 10 visitor numbers for 2019, visitor numbers fell from 4.5 million to 512,203.
These numbers indicates the impact of the pandemic both on a specific heritage organisation as well as on the tourism sector more generally.
As part of the bicentenary of the Greek War of Independence draws near, two US members of Congress have passed a resolution calling on the UK Government to return the architectural sculptures from the Parthenon to Greece (“Hellenic Caucus Co-Chairs Maloney & Bilirakis Reintroduce Resolution Calling on the U.K. to Return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece“, 18 March 2021).
Congressman Gus Bilirakis said:
“The Parthenon Marbles were made by the citizens of Athens under the direction of renowned artist Phidias to celebrate the pride and majesty of the City of Athens. To not house and view these citizen contributions in the city they were originally intended does a disservice not only to the people of Athens, but also to the civilization that paved the path for modern democracy and freedom.”
The appeal to the original intention of the sculptor is a strong one. These sculptures were an integral part of a building, incidentally now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Athenian Akropolis.
Is now the time for these sculptures to be returned to Athens so that they can be displayed in line of sight of the Parthenon?
Next week is the 200th anniversary of the start of the Greek War of Independence. The Battle of Navarino, in the south-west Peloponnese, took place on 20 October 1827 when the allied fleet of Britain, France and Russia defeated the Ottomans.
The British monument is placed on one of the small islands in the bay. Some of the ships were subsequently based at Nauplion.
For more on the Royal Navy in Greece in this period:
Gill, D. W. J., and C. Gill. 2010. “H.M.S. Belvidera and the Temple of Minerva.” Notes and Queries 57: 199-210. [DOI]
The British Prime Minister has stepped into the debate about cultural property currently held in the British Museum by making a statement about what he considers to be the legal status of the Parthenon architectural sculptures (“Greek culture minister challenges British PM’s claims on Parthenon sculptures“, ekatherimini.com 12 March 2021). These sculptures were once an integral part of the Parthenon, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Athenian Acropolis. The proposal is to display them in line of sight with the Parthenon.
Some of the issues relating to cultural property are explored in my Context Matters: Collating the Past (20202) [see here].
Reconstructing archaeological remains can be problematic. How do they influence the visitor’s interpretation of an archaeological site? Do they enhance the visit?
One of the most successful reconstructions is the two-storeyed Stoa of Attalos that forms the eastern side of the Athenian agora. It is some 116 metres in length. It was given to the city of Athens by Attalos II (159–138 BCE) of Pergamon. The reconstruction was undertaken by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens from 1953 to 1956. Its colonnade not only provides welcome shade to visitors to the site, but the rooms to the rear of the colonnade house the archaeological finds made during the excavations.
The fragmentary dedicatory inscription that was originally placed on the architrave above the lower set of columns is displayed in front of the Stoa. It identified the donors as ‘King Attalos, son of King Attalos, and Queen Apollonis’. The text was not incorporated on the reconstruction in case new fragments required an adjustment.
A large base made of Hymettian marble was found in front of the stoa. This may be the statue mentioned in the dedicatory inscription on the stoa. Cuttings suggest that it supported a bronze chariot, similar to that placed at the western approach to the Athenian acropolis. It was later rededicated to the emperor Tiberius.
Dedicatory base in front of the Stoa of Attalos © David Gill
In 2019 there were 5.89 million visits to museums in Greece, worth over 23 million Euros in receipts. The two museums with the highest number of visitors are the New Akropolis Museum (with 1.7 million visitors in 2019) and the National Archaeological Museum in Athens (with 608,000 visitors in 2019). These two museums account for 40 per cent of all public museum visits in the country. Museums in Attiki account for 2.7 million visits, 47 per cent of all public museums visits in the country.
Other areas with high museums visits include Thessaloniki with 591,000 visits (10 per cent of visits), the Dodecanese (including Rhodes) with 381,000 visits (6 per cent of visits), and Crete with 845,000 visits (14 per cent of visits); the site museums of Delphi had 275,000 visits, and Olympia 159,000 visits (together 7 per cent of visits).
The sanctuary of Athena is located on a terrace immediately above the theatre on the acropolis at Pergamon. The temple of Athena, built in Doric order, was placed on the western edge for dramatic affect.
The entrance to the sanctuary was through a two-storeyed propylon, now reconstructed in Berlin. The inscription shows that it was constructed by King Eumenes II to Athena Nikephoros (who had brought victories over the Galatians, among others). Trophies from the victories are shown in relief on the propylon.
The temenos displayed a number of sculptures celebrating these victories. Among them was probably the original of the ‘trumpeter’ (better known as The Dying Gaul) now in Rome.
The full effect of the sanctuary has been lost on site but it can be reconstructed in our imagination through the architectural reconstructions in Berlin as well as the copies of some of victory monuments from the sanctuary itself.