Hellenic Museum world best

19 July 2016

Australia’s Hellenic Museum is one of twenty Museums in the world chosen to take part in The Best in Heritage conference – an international symposium that recognizes award winning museum, heritage and conservation projects.  The Museum’s CEO John Tatoulis has been invited to travel to Dubrovnik, Croatia in September, as a distinguished laureate, to discuss and present the Museum’s cultural partnership with the Benaki Museum, Athens, specifically the development and success of the exhibition Gods, Myths & Mortals.

“Being selected to present to such a prestigious group of Museum experts and leaders in their field is testament to all the hard work of the Hellenic Museum,” says Mr Tatoulis.

Above: Hellenic Museum CEO John Tatoulis in the ONEIROI gallery space. 

The Gods, Myths & Mortals project was initiated by Mr Tatoulis and supported by the Hellenic Museum board, State Government and the Benaki Museum. Its main objective was to provide an overview of Greek art and culture through the ages, as well as help the Museum grow by acting as a catalyst to create new works with established and emerging artists; develop new initiatives and partnerships; and produce dynamic and diverse cultural events.

“The loan of a collection of this calibre is, in its self, a significant coup for Australia,” said Mr Tatoulis who adds that just next month a second collection from the Benaki Museum The Art of Adornment will be on display from 26 August. This collection features over 90 pieces of intricate and exquisite jewellery from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Since Gods, Myths & Mortals launched in September 2014, it has seen visitors from all over Australia as well international guests visit the Hellenic Museum. The collection, that spans 8000 years of Greek civilization, went on to win the Best Exhibition by Museums Australia Victoria in 2015. Commended for punching above their weight, and praised for both the quality and duration of the exhibition from Greece's Benaki Museum, the team at the Museum worked diligently with the Benaki to transform the space of the former Royal Mint, and to ambitiously bring the items to life in their Australian home for the next ten years.

Installing and curating an exhibition of this significance in a heritage-listed space came with its own series of challenges. One of the considerations of the Museums Award was the innovative way the exhibition was installed within the strict parameters maintained by the heritage department, while managing to create an exhibition layout which complemented both the building, the exhibition content and adhered to museum best practice. The resultant design is specific and sympathetic to both the magnificent building and to the exhibition. Freestanding cabinetry was purpose built and installed in such a way as to create an intimate, chronological journey of discovery. Unique spaces within the building were also incorporated within the design helping to create a seamless experiential journey. Two examples include the subtle transformation of the former Royal Mint’s gold vault into a byzantine treasury and the former gold surveyor’s room into a 20-seat theatrette. 

The project Gods, Myths & Mortals has acted as a platform from which other exhibitions, events and artworks could evolve. The ONEIROI installation is a great example of this and shows how ancient and modern Greece can be showcased in a single collection.  Internationally acclaimed artist Bill Henson was commissioned to create a new series of photographs as a permanent installation at the Hellenic Museum.


“Just like the Greek treasures selected by Bill Henson, the resultant photographs that form the collection ONEIROI are unique, without editions, reflecting the nature of the Benaki artefacts they incorporate, thus respecting and honouring their originality and timelessness,” says Mr Tatoulis.

Now in its fifteenth year, the Best in Heritage international conference is a way to celebrate professional excellence and inform the international museum and gallery communities of success stories.

Past museums to have their projects featured in the Best in Heritage include: The British Museum; New Acropolis Museum; Smithsonian Institution and the Victoria and Albert Museum.