A 30-year retrospect of the Greek Ministry of Culture educational programmes: an insider's insight

The presentation of Stathis Gotsis on February 25, 2014 at the Association of Greek Archaeologists offered us an earnest account and insight of the Greek experience and efforts to make museums more inclusive and open to society. A history graduate himself and an employee of the Greek Ministry of Culture and its Centre of Educational Programmes since 1991, S. Gotsis joined the Byzantine and Christian Museum in 2000 as the head of Educational Programmes. It is worth noticing that the B&C Museum has been a pioneer in educational programmes nationwide for many years. However, S. Gotsis had already been involved in educational programmes since 1985, when the very first project of the Ministry on ‘the History of Writing’ was launched.

In his presentation he talked about four different projects: one with a group of secondary education students between the age of 13 and 15, who worked on a project in Gazi, an old and closed down industrial complex of natural gas; a project with a group of mentally impaired women; another one with a group of elderly people from a neighbourhood Centre for old people (KAPI) in Athens; a project with twenty prison school students, nineteen of whom were immigrants; and last but not least, a landmark project in the 90s with Roma children in one of the most rundown areas of Athens.

The account was human, refreshing, inspiring – the immediate product of some projects were impressive, e.g. a manuscript book - engaging and unexpectedly hopeful, showing how the parties involved on either side worked together learning from each other with constant feedback, in equal terms and without an academic overtone. Stathis Gotsis admitted that it is hard to really know how much of an impact these interactions/projects had in the lives of the people involved, but the process mattered, for both parties.

In the Q&A session we heard however more interesting  - and sad in a way – facts: that even though by now the Ministry of Culture has thirty years of accumulated practice in educational programmes, there is no evaluation whatsoever of the results, no statistics published, nor a follow-up. The numbers and the results are handed over to the Ministry, but they are never processed or (re)evaluated. 

Actually, there was a very specific question from an Ephorate (Greek archaeological service) employee who said that all this, i.e. the presentation, was very interesting and nice, but because of the crisis and the elimination of staff it is impossible to conduct such programmes nowadays. Stathis Gotsis was of a different opinion though: he believes that this attitude is not a recent one and cannot be attributed solely to the crisis. He very openly stated that educational programmes were never viewed as a priority. This mentality caused the lack of systematic and consistent work in the hundreds of museums in Greece, and that is why we saw only Ephorates who happened to have someone interested in the subject organising such projects.

The social role of museums in Greece, in other words, is far from being mainstream.

Smaro Touloupa
Cultural Heritage Studies (MA)
Professional Licensed Tourist Guide for Greece


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