When we think of Athens as a destination, we immediately think of antiquity. Many museums in Athens offer educational programs that deal with Ancient Greece and mythology, but there is only one that presents natural history and always in a fun and interacting way. A hidden gem in Athens, the Goulandris Natural History Museum is a hub for kids and adults to engage with natural history and the environmental present.
The Goulandris Natural History Museum (GNHM) is a private, non-profit institution. The GNHM was the first museum about nature to be established in 1964, and the first to initiate environmental education in the country. The museum’s aim is to serve educational and scientific purposes concerning nature in Greece and the nearby area. Located in Kifissia, a northern suburb of Athens, inside an elegant neoclassical building that dates back to the 19th century, the museum collaborates with national and European organization to preserve and help ecosystems in the Mediterranean.
As a continuation of its environmental causes, the museum also opened the GAIA (earth in Greek) Center for Environmental Research and Education, with the support of the European Union’s Cohesion Fund. This center of scientific research and education will contribute to the establishment of a new environmental policy in Greece, in Europe and internationally. In addition, GNHM has renovated the Mastaba Mosque in Rethymno, Crete, to show geological and paleontological collections of the region.
Everything began in 1964, when Angelos and Niki Goulandris created the museum as a research laboratory. With their private investments and a team of Greek and foreign scientists, they succeeded in recording and investigated the country’s biological and geological natural history.
The collections reflect the biodiversity and incomparable beauty of the Greek landscape, which includes thousands of specimens that help us understand both Greece’s older and modern environment. In GNHM, you can see mammals, reptiles, insects and birds; the paleontological collection includes fossils, the marine biology collection, the mineral and the botanical one.
With the type of collections that always fascinate both young and old, the museum also offers numerus educational programs for our little friends. Following the museum’s philosophy of promoting environmental conscious, the programs are usually a tour in the exhibition spaces, followed by workshops and assignments that help children, students or teenagers get to know the ecosystem, and understand both the relations developed in it and the dangers it faces today, all while learning ways to preserve it.
The museum offers programs in Greek, English and French. The themes are include exploring nature, the fields of science shown in the museum or specific rooms of the exhibition, which always combined knowledge with interactive games. Some of these programs are "Exploring life beneath the waves," "Let's visit the inner earth" and "Life in the past." Every program is designed for a specific age group and includes interactive activities, exploration of the exhibitions and basic understanding of the themes presented there; programs are also offered for school groups.
The Goulandris Natural History Museum is not only a must-visit for kids, but also for adults that want to discover another side of Greek history and its environment. Now, more than ever, this museum raises awareness and motivates kids to think “green” and respect and protect the environment.