From Dedea­gatch to Alexan­droupoli

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY DIM­ITRIS RIGOPOU­LOS

Alexan­droupoli is a spe­cial case among Greek cities. It is a rel­a­tively young city – its first port was cre­ated in the 1860s when the then small vil­lage be­gan de­vel­op­ing fran­ti­cally, at­tract­ing a wave of new set­tlers in the process – and al­though its pre­vi­ous name, Dedea­gatch, re­called its mul­ti­eth­nic Ot­toman past, the city de­vel­oped into a typ­i­cal mod­ern Greek ur­ban cen­ter. With­out the minarets and Mus­lim quar­ters of Xan­thi and Ko­mo­tini, Alexan­droupoli was strictly Chris­tian, pro­vid­ing a plat­form for the Euro­pean am­bi­tions of Rus­sian en­gi­neers who came up with the city’s first ur­ban plan at the time of the nine-month oc­cu­pa­tion dur­ing the 1877-78 Rus­soTurk­ish war.

This ex­cit­ing story, which re­mains largely un- known to most Greeks, is nar­rated at the Alexan­droupoli His­tor­i­cal Mu­seum. This is not the case of yet an­other state mu­seum, but a lo­cal com­mu­nity ini­tia­tive, the brain­child of the Evros An­tiq­uity Lovers and Cul­tural Her­itage As­so­ci­a­tion. It is housed in a 1995 con­struc­tion on land con­ceded by the Min­istry of Cul­ture and Tourism. The mu­seum’s per­ma­nent exhi- bi­tion was in­au­gu­rated on June 4.

The pro­ject was con­cluded fol­low­ing an agree­ment be­tween the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Alexan­droupoli, the Evros Pre­fec­ture and the Rhodope-Evros Su­per-Pre­fec­ture. The mu­seum’s dis­plays ex­plore the city’s ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites, its ur­ban de­vel­op­ment and its re­la­tion­ship with the rail­way and the port as well as its ur­ban and ar­chi­tec­tural iden­tity. Over the last few years, the mu­seum’s col­lec­tion has mainly been en­riched through the do­na­tion of the Eleni Philip­pi­dou col­lec­tion, which in­cludes tra­di­tional Sarakat­sani cos­tumes.

The ex­hi­bi­tion un­folds through a con­tem­po­rary mu­seum ap­proach, mak­ing use of com­posed im­ages and re-en­act­ment ma­te­rial, in­ter­ac­tive au­dio­vi­sual me­dia and screen­ings, as well as a col­lec­tion of ob­jects stem­ming from do­na­tions of archival ma­te­rial by col­lec­tors and lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions. Here is an ini­tia­tive which de­serves to find fol­low­ers in other cities and for other cities to find inspiration in.

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