Closed Doors and Secret Museums

Museums are full of surprises. On my adventures I’ve come across museums that tackle all sorts of topics; museums about death, museums about Marzipan, even a museum about a niche German snack. It’s not just the topics that museums cover that can surprise and delight, but the museums themselves. I have visited art galleries in a former public school building and one in an old train station; I’ve visited a museum housed in what used to be a freight elevator too.

No matter the topic and no matter the location, museums have an air of permanence. Surely they can’t change? Many a time a visit comes up to me with a battered old guide book that’s older than I am and asks why things aren’t as they’re described in the book.

Or, my personal favourite “I came here in 1982 and I was allowed in the Reading Room then…

Things change.

The main thing is, however, that the museum is still there. Its doors are still open and the artefacts are still on display. Sometimes I forget how fortunate a position that is.

I’ve been exploring the museums in Athens recently, you may have noticed. As I made my way around the city, a couple of places popped up in some rather unexpected places – who would expect a museum hidden in tunnels next to a stadium?- there were others that would have been fascinating to visit. Alas, they were closed.

One place was an old botanical museum. It’s now an abandoned building in the middle of the National Gardens. I turned the corner, and there it was, surrounded by trees, flowers and other flora. It is like the museum’s former inhabitants have taken control of the space.

An abandoned botanical museum in Athens
A Botanical Museum peeking through the leaves

Oddly, I can’t find out much about the museum, or why it closed…

The Gardens themselves are beautiful. The writer Henry Miller visited them and wrote in 1939 “It remains in my memory like no other park I have known. It is the quintessence of a park, the thing one feels sometimes in looking at a canvas or dreaming of a place one would like to be in and never finds.”

Another place with only the shell of a museum is the Acropolis.

Here it is.

The former Acropolis Museum
The former Acropolis Museum

Apparently this place was the old Acropolis Museum, before this one opened. It is closed at the moment (although you can still use the loos!) but the museum won’t be closed forever. The Parthenon is currently undergoing a lot restoration, and the museum that sits on top of the hill will tell the story of that.


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