Postcard from Samos

Warrior Samos Museum

Warriors Samos Archaeological Museum

I was on the Greek Island of Samos recently (hence the lack of updates) and visited the Archaeological Museum in Samos Town (or Vathy). It houses some beautiful objects most notably the statue of a colossal kouros (a representation of a male youth). The sculpture can be seen in a custom made building opened in 1987 to deal with its massive scale. For most of the time I was there visitors were clustered around the base of the statue having their photos taken.

Kouros Samos Archaeological Museum

Kouros – Samos Archaeological Museum

I personally preferred the collection of smaller items in the adjacent building which used to house a library/ archive (guidebooks differed in opinion). Samos’ location meant that following the flowering of its own culture in the 6th century BC it was involved in trade or conflict with a number of different civilizations. These influences can be seen in the collection which includes some beautiful little Egyptian pieces.

Display cases Samos Archaeological Museum

Display cases Samos Archaeological Museum

As you can see from the images the museum was far from over-interpreted. What it did very well was use stands and subtle reconstruction to make even the smallest of objects interesting. Below is a tiny fragment of pottery which nonetheless jumped out at me. I used to work at the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology and it was great to see what I think might be a whole aulos being played.

Aulos - Samos Archaeological Museum

Aulos – Samos Archaeological Museum

Before visiting I had been reading Monti and Keene’s (2013) Museums and Silent Objects where they ask whether less impressive objects can be displayed in a way which attracts and keeps the interest of visitors. In this museum the Kouros is clearly the star but by splitting up the larger pieces and the smaller items and by using the simplest of all display techniques (interesting arrangement within a case) curators made sure that it did not overpower the rest of the objects. These tiny objects would have been worn against the skin or clutched in the hand. As such they connect us with individual and imperfect humans rather than their idealised forms.

Heads -Samos Archaeological Museum

Heads -Samos Archaeological Museum