The gift shops operating at Greece’s museums and archaeological sites sum up the Culture Ministry’s idea of promoting the country’s cultural legacy. Until recently, visitors looking for a decent Greek souvenir found empty shelves, limited choice, stock shortages, old-fashioned designs, badly lit stores and idle staff. That is when the shops were actually open.
Things recently have definitely changed at the National Archaeological Museum (NAM) in Athens. The basement shop now has more light, more color and more products, including a selection of painted sculptures that have gone on sale for the first time.
The museum’s first reproductions workshop was established in 1893, but the systematic production of casts and replicas didn’t start until 1970. Today the workshop is based in a big facility in Rendi, western Athens, where a group of talented painters and sculptors make copies of artifacts, mostly using plaster.
Apart from the upgraded exposition space, the goal is for each museum gift shop to have its own, emblematic souvenir. Efforts are under way to kick-start work at the workshops in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on the islands of Crete and Rhodes, as well as at Olympia and Delphi.