In the heart of the historical Center of Athens, on one of the busiest streets filled with tourists and locals, is the Shop of the Museum of Greek Folk Art. Located among taverns and tourist shops, archaeological sites and the Train and Metro Station, are promising high-quality objects inspired by the museum’s spectacular Collections.
The Museum of Greek Folk Art (MELT) in Athens is dedicated to Greek Folk Art and depicts the customs and traditions of the everyday lives of Greek people from the 17th century until the 1970s. It was founded in 1918, initially as the Museum of Greek Handicrafts and later as the National Museum of Decorative Arts. The museum features five annexes within walking distance with each other; three of these annexes are currently open, but the Tzistarakis Mosque is closed for renovation and the main building has moved to a new location to fit the needs of the collection.
The Museum Shop is unlike any other for a few reasons. First, it’s located outside a museum space. Though the main building (17 Kidathinaion Str, in Plaka) has its own shop (established in 1991), in July 2011, the Friends Society of MELT established a new shop near the Tzistarakis Mosque. It is located next to the Monastiraki Train and Metro Station that connects many Athenian neighborhoods, making it easy for anyone to visit. Second, it is run by the Friends Society of MELT and is a product of community effort. As stated by the Museum, “the Shop belongs to the Museum and operates under the care of the elected Committee of the Friends Society of MELT for its purposes.” Just like any other museum shop, it abides by “the same strategic polices of the Museum and considers all the required parameters for the operation of shops in public museums.”
The one-of-a-kind products for sale not only represent Greek Folk Art, but also stay true to the aesthetics of the Museum’s collections. The products vary from jewelry to works of art and from ornaments to practical everyday objects; their selection is made by the Committee. The Shop collaborates with renowned artists from all over Greece “that are either asked to create copies of authentic objects from the rich collections of the Museum, or are inspired by the collection to create new objects that fit with the style and content firstly of the museum and on a secondary note of the Shop.”
The Shop is ideal for holiday shopping or for special gifts. Specifically, visitors can find handcrafts, embroidery, ceramics, wooden sculptures, silverworks, jewelry and Shadow Theatre figures as well as decorative and practical objects – all of which make for original and creative gifts. There are also publications of folk art, digital discs of traditional music, cards, etc. Look out for their bazaars too!
The Museum of Greek Folk Art also uses the Shop's upstairs exhibition space for “organizing exhibitions and various cultural events. They have exhibitions of traditional embroidery, painting or photograph, music events, nights of literature and bazaars.” Lastly, “the Shop of the Museum, located in the heart of the historical center of Athens is a meeting point of a large group of artists from different regions of Greece, where they exhibit their unique works inspired by Modern Greek Culture.”
The Shop of the Museum of Greek Folk Art is a fine example of the power of love for a museum and its cause. The active Friends Society has provided the museum with the opportunity of expanding and has given visitors the ability to access folk art outside the area of the museum. Although it does not share the same space with the museum, it manages to stay true in its spirit. In a way, since the new building of the museum is just around the corner, the shop is not isolated. We could say that there is a route that connects all the buildings. For the time being and until the opening of the New Museum of Greek Folk Art, this is the only Shop accessible to the public.