The temporary exhibition, which opened on July 15, 2021, at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki entitled For a burning flame. Antiquities and Memory, Thessaloniki - Macedonia [1821-2021], is the museum’s contribution in the celebration marking the bicentenary of the most important event in modern Greek history: the outbreak of the struggle for national independence.
Nearly 100 years were to pass between 1821 and 1912, when Macedonia too was incorporated into the independent Greek state. A century of expectation, in which the flame of revolution became a perpetual flame for Greeks everywhere. The exhibition attempts to shed light on this important but relatively little-known page of Greek history, focusing on the role of antiquities as material substance and spiritual legacy of collective memory.
Antiquities, collector’s items, relics and archival material, are presented alongside textual sources and audiovisual material in an expository narrative that sets the years of the Revolution, together with those preceding and following, into the overall course of Thessaloniki’s history.
The 117 objects displayed are intertwined with the personal histories of figures known and unknown, reflecting the events, the ideologies and the spirit of the time. Arranged in seven units, they attempt to supply answers to a series of question:
- What changes marked the transformation of Thessaloniki after the Ottoman conquest?
- How did the city’s walls first preserve and then reveal memorial records of its turbulent history?
- How did travellers visiting Levantine Thessaloniki see its ancient Greek monuments?
- What role did antiquities play in the preparations for the Revolution and liberationist visions in the Macedonian region?
- What was the fate of the revolutionary movements and freedom fighters in the Macedonian region?
- What was the Greek community doing during those years of expectation preceding the Liberation?
The museum experience is enriched by a separate unit entitled In their own words, which runs throughout the exhibition as a chain of brief stories. These audio documents, representative of each exhibition unit, convey the atmosphere and the flavour of the time through short extracts from eye-witness accounts.
The celebration of this anniversary has given the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki an opportunity to organise an exhibition that will help us reflect upon the city’s history through the adventures of its monuments and the lens of collective memory.
The entities and individuals taking part in this exhibition through loans of objects are:
National Archaeological Museum, National Historical Museum, Georgios Konstantinidis Collection (historical family archive), Kostas Stamatis Collection (engravings), Vasilios Nikoltsios Collection (historical military relics). In addition, many other entities and collectors have given permission to use visual material.
Accompanying the exhibits is a 7-minute film conveying the atmosphere and the messages of the exhibition through sound, image and narrative.
A parallel educational programme entitled A map, a coin, a story of liberation, organised in collaboration with the Cartographic Heritage Archive (General State Archives – Historical Archive of Macedonia), will run throughout the duration of the exhibition.
Rigas Velestinlis’ Charta of Greece has been made into a board game for children in Grades 5-6, a journey of the imagination to the people and places that inspired the Revolution. Players will be called upon to follow routes, note symbols, play with coins, observe and comment, and tell their own stories.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue in Greek and English, which will be available shortly