The Archaeological News Network (copying Xinhua) recently posted an interesting feature on the Acropolis Museum. Since its inauguration in June 2009, the New Acropolis Museum, which stands at the foot of the Acropolis, is leading the way in cultural heritage conservation in Greece. The museum, housing thousands of centuries-old masterpieces unearthed from the sacred hill, has won many prestigious international awards for the innovative techniques it applied to conservate Greeks' priceless treasures.

The unique collection, which includes some of the most important sculptures of the 6th and 5th century BC, has been put on display on three levels over an area of 14,000 square meters. The New Acropolis Museum has an extensive program of conservation. Its 17-member team of experts is using novel methodology and equipment to clean and restore the sculptures to their former glory and often offers its know-how to other museums across Greece.

Professor Pantermalis and senior conservator Kostas Vassiliadis explained how the experts are removing coats of dirt or materials of previous interventions from the surfaces, keeping the patina intact so that the items look as they were in the 19th century.

Wearing protective goggles, Vassiliadis and conservator Vassiliki Rachioti are using laser beams of infrared and ultraviolet rays to remove thick grime deposits from the surface, restore corrosion of acid rain, damage from historic battles and correct discoloration of the marble in a controlled and safe way.

The white of the marbles is restored without losing details. On average, the sculptures are revealed in their entire splendor within a few weeks. In addition, the conservators are studying the remains of colors and make reproductions that allow visitors to have a glimpse of the colorful world of ancient Athenians. Professor Pantermalis explained:

"Ancient art is an imitation of nature and nature of course is multi-colored so people at that time did not want white statues, but painted a colorful world. Practically for them art was a recreation of the world."

According to Vassiliadis, a program started a few years ago in the Acropolis museum has allowed researchers to investigate the color traces and pigments of the archaic sculptures mostly from the exhibition and storage room.

"For this research we use non destructive techniques like XRF [X-ray fluorescence], raman microscopy and imaging techniques and we try to identify the ancient pigments used for coloring the sculptures."

For example, the Chios Kore was once colored in cinnabar, azurite and malachite, their analysis showed. What today looks faded green on the sculpture in the past was dark blue or red. After uncovering the hidden colors, the experts construct copies so that visitors can see the product of the research.

"Such a research will enable visitors to see some results from what we are doing here."