Safeguarding Statues in WWII

With colleagues, I am doing work on a group of sculptures now in the small archaeological museum in Agrinio. The sculptures were excavated in the 1920s, long way before the current Agrinio museum opened, and for fifty years or so they were housed in Athens. While looking into their history of display (and restoration), I was reminded of the extraordinary images from 1940-41 when the heroic staff of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens worked hard to keep the collection safe from harm. Statues (and other objects in the museum) were sealed and buried in underground pits. Incidentally, some of the sculptures treated in this way originally had been found in pits (e.g. the Sounion kouroi recovered by Staïs in the early 20th century). The sculptures were not freed or “excavated” again until June 1946. The museum made a collection of photos of these efforts available here, some highlights of which I showcase below.

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