Keeping History Alive
I'll spend my money saving her home.
When I spend money, I try to spend it wisely. Before I buy anything, I will shop around to get the best deal. I rarely ever buy anything on impulse and I usually complain about the prices of most things...except museums in Greece. I never question the price of admission, nor the fact that an 8-page pamphlet of whatever museum I visit costs 10€. I will even buy things there that I don't really need like 2€ postcards or a 3€ photocopied picture of the museum on a piece of laser paper. Why? Because museums in Greece are severely underfunded if they're funded at all. I feel that if my 10€ helps keep the museum open for another hour, then it's money well spent.
I just love visiting museums. I've been to the Acropolis, National Historical Museum, the War Museum, Folk Art Museum and Children's Museum in Plaka as well as the Jewish Museum. I find them all interesting and the historical details I glean from them gets committed to my memory much quicker than when I read my history books. Books give me an impersonal overview of events whereas the museums make events a much more personal experience. It's one thing to see a picture of traditional costumes from Northern Greece and quite another to actually see the fabric and the hundreds of creases in a dress on display in the Folk Art Museum. I sympathised with the poor Greek woman who had to iron all those creases in the days before Stirella irons were invented. I was amazed at the painstaking detail in the embroidery. You just can't experience that from reading a book.
Most of these larger museums and historical sites (Delphi, Epidavros, Palamidi Prison) are funded the by the Greek Ministry of Culture. Because nearly every square inch of land in Greece can be deemed a historical site, the State just can't afford to maintain and operate all of them. This leaves many of the smaller museums on their own trying to scrape enough money together from private funding and visitors to keep their places open.
On the island of Naxos, Mr. Della Rocca owns and operates the Venetian Museum. He converted his family's ancestral home into a museum all by himself and relies solely on the proceeds he makes from visiting tourists. He also makes sure everyone knows this by posting a sign outside the entrance stating that he's managing his museum on his own with absolutely no help from the Greek government. I admired this man's initiative to keep his museum open and bought everything he had to offer for sale.
When visiting the island of Spetses a few years ago, I was privileged enough to tour the home of one of my favourite Greek figures in modern history, Laskarina Bouboulina. Her direct descendant explained to me that he was also trying to keep her home open on a shoestring budget and again, I bought every single pamphlet, postcard and photocopy he had for sale to support his commendable efforts.
The other reason I never quibble over the cost of museum fees is because I grew up in Canada where anything over 100 years old is considered history. To be able to experience history on the scale of what Greece has to offer exceeds the 50€ or more I spend at the museums. It's a chance of a lifetime for me and I'd much rather spend my money trying to keep history alive than at a movie theatre or taverna any day of the week.