Goulandris Natural History Museum

Irini Dimitriadou

supervisor of the 'Herakles Hero Supreme' exhibition

The Goulandris Natural History Museum

13 Levidou Street, GR-145 62 Kifissia Greece

www.gnhm.gr

Herakles at the crossroads of Myth and Science

From 1964 the Goulandris Natural History Museum studies Nature and today is one of the largest in Europe. The GAIA Centre for Environmental Research and Education, founded by the Museum in 2002, already performs an international avant-garde work. The ls"Herakles Hero Supreme' exhibition, organised by the Centre in the context of the Olympic Games (Herakles was their founder) brought us, as a museum, from the field of science into that of the myth. And this supreme myth about the supreme hero brought us again, as you will find out, through multiple readings, into the field of science, the study and adoration for Earth.
We have followed in the footsteps of Herakles. We have travelled to the world of myth - a myth which is to be found all over the Mediterranean, all over Europe, which has lived on for 3,000 years, reshaped to meet the needs of the times and of men. We have relived the myth as the spoken word, as a tradition of the greatest antiquity, as memory, as history with a symbolic content, as an interpretation of the principles, the functioning and the end of the world, with references to supernatural powers. In the end, following in the steps of Herakles, we saw that myth safeguards the smooth functioning of the community, its continuity and cohesion, its relation with other communities and nature, thanks to its tried and tested normative values, and that every myth is always seeking to bridge the permanent gap between the binding obligations of nature and the constantly renewed quests of civilisation.
The myth of Herakles also brought us, naturally enough, to the crossroads of Virtue and Evil. It would have been easy, restful and in no way demanding for us to have followed the road of Evil: the schoolbook stereotypes of the Twelve Labours, the museological stereotypes of the paratactically exhibited objects, the scholasticism of the archaeologists. We chose the difficult road of Virtue: to travel to the thousands of passages in ancient authors and the representations which deal with Herakles; to start out from present-day problems and, in our turn, to reshape his myth, to delve into the historical findings of the archaeologists, making use of the quintessence of their latest discoveries, to interweave, in terms of museology, the answers of yesterday with the anxieties of today: the quest for the incorruptibility of matter, the quest for an equilibrium with nature.
Respective was our course in the pursuit for museographical solutions: innovative architectural design in full correlation to the evolution of the script, lightsome structural solutions, dynamic weaving of explanatory texts, ancient passages, pictorial material and art works (ancient and modern ones), discreet light, rich colour, great delight, atmosphere of initiation.
Our age needs meaningful new myths: a myth of universal value, for the whole planet, which will give an answer to the anxieties of all the earth''s peoples, will harmonise all the cultures with one another, with Nature, with the World. In order to create such a myth, we must return to the Earth, from which we came and whose conscience we are. We must make Mother Earth, GAIA, the centre of our new myth.