The National Archaeological Museum in Athens and its photographic archive by Dr Maria Chidiroglou

Views from the past to the present

Dr Maria Chidiroglou, Archaeologist – Curator

National Archaeological Museum, Department of the Collections of Vases, Metal and Minor Arts Artefacts & Museum Photographic Archive, 1 Tositsa Str., Athens 10682, Greece

The National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the oldest and one of the largest museums of Greece, is known through a number of its exhibits, such as the marble Varvakeion Athena statue, the bronze statue of Zeus or Poseidon from the sea area of Artemision at Euboea (Figure 1), the Antikythera Mechanism and many other ancient objects, including collections of Greek vases, terracotta statuettes, bronze artefacts, glass, bone and ivory objects and jewellery[1].

1. Bronze statue of Zeus or Poseidon, NAM X 15161, dated around 460 B.C., from the sea area of Artemision, Euboea, in the period of its first conservation. Pieces of the statue were found in 1926 and 1928. Glass negative. 1928 or a little later. National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Photographic Archive.

The Photographic Archive of this Museum is considered as one of the oldest of the Greek Archaeological Service[2]. In its early period, it was equipped with its own laboratory for the development and printing of analog films. Nowadays it is equipped with hard-and soft-ware for the digitization of analog material, as well as for the development and storage of digital shots[3].

The archive houses glass plate negatives, negatives and slides of later types, together with prints, most of which illustrate antiquities of the National Museum. Some of the earliest photographs of the archive date in the late 19th and the first decade of the 20th century. The conserved and inventoried glass plate negatives of the archive are 8.500 in total. The total number of analog photographic materials housed in the archive, such as 35-millimeter films and prints of standard sizes (13×18 and 18×24 cm) amounts to around 250.000 specimens that are dated in the 20th century.

Apart from academic research and publication goals, some of the main work purposes of the museum photo laboratory and archive were and still are to contribute to the study of museum artefacts and the research of ancient Greek art and culture, as well as to offer to the general public what can be termed as “educational images” and didactic photographic copies of monuments, sites, artefacts and subjects related to the ancient Greek world and the Mediterranean. The museum photo laboratory used to produce photographic prints, on demand, to answer requests made by academics, educators, publishing and filming agents, students and others, for the illustration of various, archaeological or popular editions and products. The same purposes are nowadays met with digital material, provided on demand by the museum archive.     

Examples of glass plate negatives and other photographic materials of the archive include some of the first photos of a large number of ancient sculptures and vases acquired by the National Museum in its early years, as well as landscapes, sites and monuments of the ancient Greek world. Examples are offered by glass plates and prints that preserve views of the Acropolis, the Athenian Roman Agora (Figure 2) and sites of ancient Athens and Attica, such as of Eleusis (Figure 3), as well as of other regions, such as Euboea, mainland Greece, the Peloponnese and the islands.

2. Athens, Roman Agora. View of the archaeological site. Glass negative. Early 20th century. National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Photographic Archive.

3. Attica, Eleusis. View of the archaeological site. Glass negative. Early 20th century. National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Photographic Archive.

An archive of digital and digitized photographs has been developed and enriched in the museum since 2010. During the same period, students of archaeology and other disciplines have worked and studied in the archive, as part of their internship projects. Recently (2021-2023), a project was successfully completed in the archive, that aimed to the conservation, documentation and digitization of a large number of the museum photographic materials (negatives, positives, prints and posters), as well as to the open-source development of the museum archive, including both analog-digitized and new digital photographic specimens[4].

A large number of the above archival photographic documents and multiple print and film copies help us reconstruct aspects of the various, educational, extrovert, cultural and promotional purposes the National Archaeological Museum in Athens and its archive aspired to contribute to as of their early years, purposes that remained inherent in their projects and development from the early 20th century to these days.  


Chidiroglou M., 2015. “Athens and Attica from the 19th to the early 20th century. Glancing at monuments and excavations through the Photographic Archive of the National Archaeological Museum”. In M. Lagogianni-Georgakarakos, Th. Koutsogiannis (eds.), A Dream Among Splendid Ruins. Strolling Through the Athens of Travelers, 17th–19th century, 382–403. Athens: National Archaeological Museum, Archaeological Receipts Fund.   

Chidiroglou M., Stamouli E., Drougka V., Drakomathioulaki K., Malliari A., Moraïtou G., 2018. Αναβάθμιση Φωτογραφικού Αρχείου Εθνικού Αρχαιολογικού Μουσείου, Καταγραφή, Προληπτική Συντήρηση, Ψηφιοποίηση, Ανοιχτή Πρόσβαση, Unpublished Study, Athens (official prot. no. ΥΠΠΟΑ/ΓΔΑΠΚ/ΕΑΜ/666423/478733/12848/21.12.2018).

Fragoulopoulou S., 2018. Η ιστορική κουλτούρα των μουσειακών αφηγήσεων: τα κρατικά μουσεία στον μεσοπόλεμο (1922–1940), Ph.D. Thesis, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens (

Kaltsas N., 2001. Εθνικό Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο. Τα Γλυπτά. Athens: Kapon Editions.

Kaltsas Ν., 2007. The National Archaeological Museum. Athens: Latsis Foundation ( (accessed: 13/05/2024).

Kokkou A. 2009. Η μέριμνα για τις αρχαιότητες στην Ελλάδα και τα πρώτα Μουσεία. Athens: Kapon Editions.

Lagogianni-Georgakarakos M. 2016. Εθνικό Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο. Ένα περιπετειώδες χρονικό (online lecture, 28/06/2016) ( (accessed: 13/05/2024).

Paschalidis K. 2016. Η ίδρυση και οι περιπέτειες του Εθνικού Αρχαιολογικού Μουσείου. Ένα συνοπτικό χρονικό με αφορμή την επέτειο των 150 χρόνων από τη θεμελίωσή του (1866–2016) (online lecture, 17/02/2016) ( (accessed: 13/05/2024).

Petrakos V. Ch. 2011. Η εν Αθήναις Αρχαιολογική Εταιρεία. Οι αρχαιολόγοι και οι ανασκαφές, 1837–2011. Athens: The Archaeological Society at Athens.


       Cette présentation se concentre sur les archives photographiques et documentaires du Musée National d’Athènes, qui illustrent sculptures, vases et objets en bronze du Musée, sites archéologiques, monuments antiques et fouilles menées par le Service archéologique en Grèce à la fin du  XIXe et au début du XXe s. Le texte présente donc une sélection de ces archives, ainsi que les premiers résultats du programme actuel (2021-2023) de valorisation des archives photographiques du Musée National d’Athènes.


[1] For the foundation of the National Archaeological Museum in 1866 and work during its early periods, see: Kaltsas 2001. Kaltsas 2007, 15–23. Kokkou 2009, 201–58. Lagogianni-Georgakarakos 2016. Paschalidis 2016.

[2] Foundation of the Greek Archaeological Service: Kokkou 2009, 70–85. National Archaeological Museum Photographic Archive, overviewed in: Chidiroglou 2015, 382-403.

[3] The Photographic laboratory of the National Archaeological Museum was created in 1923, thanks to actions taken by the archaeologist Konstantinos Kourouniotis, Director of the Museum in this period, see: Fragoulopoulou 2018, 132, footnote 238. For K. Kourouniotis, see: Petrakos 2011, 16, 20, 22, 58-59, 66, 73, 122.

[4] Chidiroglou, Stamouli, Drougka, Drakomathioulaki, Malliari, Moraïtou 2018.

Citer ce billet
Natacha Lubtchansky (2024, 21 mai). The National Archaeological Museum in Athens and its photographic archive by Dr Maria Chidiroglou. Copies Didactiques. Consulté le 23 juin 2024, à l’adresse

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