“Alexandria’s heritage is being wasted”: with this distress call, a number of intellectuals and archaeologists in Alexandria launched a social campaign to acquire the land of the former governorate building to expand the Graeco-Roman museum.
According to archaeologists, the land, which is located right beside the museum, may have ancient antiquities beneath it and should be excavated.
“This is a unique museum with antiquities going back to the Greek era,” said Mona Hagag, head of the Alexandria-based Monument Association. “Yet, it’s very narrow and out of space to show all the treasures.”
The museum, which was closed at 2005 for renovations and has not yet re-opened, contains over 40,000 items, including rare, single-edition books. Many of the items are being stored in a way that will not preserve them according to Hagag. “We need a larger space to exhibit them and this can only happen by having an extra building.”
Tamer Abdel-Hamed, spokesman of Alexandria governorate, said that the governor has approved the transfer of the land to the museum and says they are waiting for final approval by the Legal Counsel and the Executive Board of Alexandria, which could take some time.
The vision of the people involved in the renovation of the Graeco-Roman Museum is for it to meet “the perfection of the Alexandria library”. “We have $10m [allocated] from the debt swap agreement between Egypt and Italy,” said Hagag, “and UNESCO will help us start fundraising for the rest of the money.”
The museum, displaying the rich heritage of Alexandria, was built in 1892. It contains several pieces that date from the 3rd century BC. Most of its content came from wealthy Alexandrians as well as from excavations led by successive directors of the institution.
The final decision on the land will be taken at a conference discussing the heritage of Alexandria between reality and future on Thursday at Alexandria Library.