The transfer of artifacts from the old Acropolis Museum -- which stands atop the historic hill itself -- to the new ultra-modern and spacious museum will begin on Oct.14, Greek Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis announced on Monday during a tour of the under-construction new venue, which is in the final stages of completion.
The transfer is expected to take three months, as the new museum will be opened to visitors in stages -- beginning in early 2008 -- and starting with the third floor. It will be fully open to the public after roughly one year, the minister added.
"A great vision is being carried out; an ultra-modern museum that has a dialectical relationship with the Acropolis," Liapis said as he toured the new building with Acropolis curator Alexandros Mantis and the director of the organisation for the construction of the new Acropolis Museum, archaeologist Dimitris Pantermalis.
The new state-of-the-art museum directly faces the Acropolis and the Parthenon Temple atop the hill from the south.
In the first phase of the new museum's operation, possibly as soon as January, the public will be able to visit the top floor where the east and north metopes of the Parthenon will be on display after their transfer from the old museum.
In anticipation of the much-hoped for return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum, meanwhile, copies of the friezes, currently in London, will be displayed on the same floor but will be covered with a transparent veil to indicate their continued absence.
The minister also underlined that Greece will continue to press for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens.
"We are all obliged to intensify our efforts for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum because only then will we have fulfilled our historic duty," Liapis stressed.
The new building is dominated by the use of hi-tech glass that allows visitors to maintain visual contact with the structures on the Acropolis, while viewing the artifacts on display.
On the ground floor, visitors will have direct visual contact with subterranean archaeological remains of an ancient Athenian neighbourhood that were uncovered at a depth of seven metres, when the foundations for the new museum were being dug. This links the daily lives ancient Athens' residents with the temples directly opposite the museum.
To the right and left on this floor, artifacts found on the slopes leading up to the Acropolis will be on display, such as those from the theatre of Dionysus, the temple of Pan and the temple of the Nymphs.
The Caryatid columns taken from the Erechtheum Temple on the Acropolis -- now replaced with replicas -- and various archaic sculptures will be displayed on the ramps and the first floor. A cafeteria and restaurant will be located on the second floor, while the third floor will be devoted to the display of the Parthenon Marbles.
Regarding the controversy over the ministry's plans to demolish two 1930s-era art deco buildings on Areopagitou Street that partially block the view of the Acropolis from the museum's lower floors, Liapis said he would continue his predecessor's policy, namely, to advocate their expropriation and demolition.
According to the minister, the old museum on the Acropolis will be used to display items and materials to help visitors gain a better understanding of the site, such as illustrations by 16th and 17th century travellers, and before the Parthenon and the other buildings on the Acropolis suffered extensive damage from a 1688 siege. Other materials will describe archaeological digs around the site, photographs of brass and copper statues that were at the Acropolis and were only known through the copies and other information.