Greece is full of museums that showcase the gems of Greece’s cultural heritage. From the Peloponnese in the south, to Evros in the north, the country is home to a network of nine thematic museums that highlight Greece’s unique traditions.
In particular, the museums created and supported by the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation (PIOP) are trying to highlight traditional methods of how previous generations harnessed Greece’s natural resources.
The museums that welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors each year are also cultural focal points in the cities hosting them.
A spokeswoman for PIOP says that the numbers visiting the museums are rising each year.
In 2017, more than 300,000 people visited the museums that highlight Greek cultural heritage, compared to 215,000 in 2006.
The PIOP network of museum includes:
The Open-Air Water Power Museum in Dimitsana
This impressive museum highlights the importance of water power in traditional Greek society.
Focusing on the main pre-industrial techniques that took advantage of rushing water to produce a variety of goods, the museum links these techniques to the history and daily life of the local society over the ages.
Visitors to the museum, which is located in the village of Dimitsana in Arcada, a region in the Peloponnese, can tour the traditional workshops that are surrounded by plush vegetation and running waters.
The first building houses a fulling-tub and a flour mill. Outside the mill, a large cauldron is exhibited.
Opposite to the cauldron there is a tannery, where visitors can get to know the various stages of the leather-treatment process.
The cobbled road leads visitors from the museum to a gunpowder mill which emphasizes the role that Dimitsana played during the 1821 Revolution.
The Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil in Sparti
The Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil, in Sparta (Peloponnese), transports you to the culture, history and technology of olive and olive oil production in the Greek realm, from prehistoric times to the early 20th century.
The museum’s objective is to highlight the ineffable relation of the olive with the identity of our country and, more generally, the Mediterranean basin.
The olive and olive oil are presented here from different optical angles: the economy, nutrition and the olive’s uses, religious worship, art and technology.
The Environment Museum of Stymphalia
Situated on the banks of Lake Stymphalia, the largest mountainous body of water in the Peloponnese and the southernmost mountainous wetland in all of the Balkans, the Environment Museum of Stymphalia highlights the area’s impressive biodiversity.
The region, which belongs to the European Network of Protected Areas, or NATURA 2000, is home to unique flora and fauna, including a large population of migratory birds.
Stymphalia is also a significant location in Greek mythology, as a legend says that Heracles slayed the Stymphalian birds there as part of his twelve labors.
Featuring a large aquarium with native fish, digital models of the lake and wildlife habitats, the Environmental Museum of Stymphalia helps bring awareness to the delicate ecosystem of the wetlands, and shows how nature and mankind are inextricably connected.
Museum of Marble Crafts in Tinos
The Museum of Marble Crafts, in Pirgos, on the island of Tinos, is a unique example presenting the technology of marble, a material that holds a particular place in the architecture and art of Greece, from antiquity through to the present.
The permanent exhibition, which describes the intricate meshing of tools and techniques used in working marble in a detailed and live manner, puts an emphasis on the pre- and proto- industrial Tinos, the most important center of marble crafts in Modern Greece.
In parallel, it highlights the social and economic context that the local workshops evolved in.
The Chios Mastic Museum
The Chios Mastic Museum is located in the Mastichochoria (literally: mastic villages), a group of medieval villages in Southern Chios, the only site in the Mediterranean where the mastic tree, or Pistacia lentiscus, grows.
The Chios Mastic Museum aims to showcase the production history of the mastic tree’s cultivation and the processing of its resin, which it integrates into the cultural landscape of Chios.
Through the prism of UNESCO’s inclusion of traditional mastic cultivation on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2014, emphasis is given to the diachronicity and sustainability of this product of Chios.
The Museum of Industrial Olive-Oil Production of Lesvos
This museum showcases the industrial phase of olive oil production in Greece.
It focuses on the changes brought about by the introduction of mechanical motion on the process of olive oil production and approaches the contribution of the region’s inhabitants to the production process with sensitivity.
Its objective is to showcase our industrial heritage in the sector of olive oil production and incorporate it into the broader architectural, social and cultural context of the period.
Visitors will familiarize themselves with the basic stages of olive-oil production: crushing the olives, compressing the olive pulp and separating the olive oil from the water.
They will also see the flourmill, which functioned in a complementary manner during the summer months when the olive press was out of use.
The Silk Museum in Soufli
The Silk Museum presents the different phases of sericulture, or silk farming, and silk manufacturing in detail and focuses on how the town of Soufli, in Evros, became a major silk-producing center in the late 19th through to the mid-20th century.
At the museum, visitors will learn about all the details from each phase composing the cycle of sericulture and discover the stages of silk manufacturing through authentic exhibits, supported by audiovisual material.
The Rooftile and Brickworks Museum in Volos
The Rooftile & Brickworks Museum is housed in a historic factory in Volos built in 1926 by Nikolaos and Spyridon Tsalapatas.
The massive complex, which covers approximately 5.44 acres, was one of the largest factories of its kind while active.
Displaying both the process and history of brick-making, an important product in the region, and the daily life of workmen who were employed at the factory, the Rooftile & Brickworks Museum provides a unique view into the history of Greek industry.
The factory remained empty after it closed in 1978, until it was purchased by the city of Volos in 1995.
The Piraeus Bank Foundation took over restoration work on the factory, converting it into an interactive, innovative museum, which was completed in 2006.
The Silversmithing Museum in Ioannina
This museum is located in the castle of Ioannina, more specifically in the western fort of the northeastern acropolis.
It occupies the fort’s two levels, as well as the adjacent building with the old cookhouses.
Its objective is to preserve our knowledge of Epirote silversmithing and to disseminate information about its technology to the wider public.
The museum also aims to tie in this technology to the social context of the period during which it developed and flourished.
As a thematic museum, it concerns the technology of silversmithing during the pre-industrial period, while simultaneously being a regional museum as well, as it focuses principally on the history of silversmithing in the region of Epirus.
Temporally, the exhibition refers essentially to the post-Byzantine period, from the 15th century onward, but without excluding references to the more distant past, given that the technology used to produce silver objects dates back to much older periods of time.