Serifos Island: An Unexploited Cultural Landscape

by Calliope Oreanou and Panagiotis Frantzis*

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Serifos is a Greek island municipality in the Aegean Sea, located in the western Cyclades. Serifos is known for its imposing Chora, built on a hill. It is known for its beautiful villages, its picturesque cobblestone narrow roads, the peace and charm of its crystal clear waters; all these characteristics the tourist guides mention in a typical manner.

Less known is the island of Serifos for the history of its mines, its scarce ores and its geological landscape.

On this island of the Cyclades, Νature and Man have merged leaving a unique imprint. Here, the magnificence of nature, the decay along with the process of life and death of the geological material cross paths with the struggle of man, his own fight for life.

The Natural environment in combination with the remains of an industrial culture, define its unique personality and its power to enchant the visitor at first sight.

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So, what is there to be done? The aim is to invite the visitor to gaze upon the present with regard to the historical, geological and cultural heritage of the land and to identify with the stories and the unimagined scenery of man and his heritage in this land.

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There is lack of information concerning the mining activity of the past. There are some tracks that date back to the Bronze Age and industry present until the middle of the 20th century. Awareness must also be raised regarding the rare ores of the island which have been detached and sold illegally on the Internet.

Museology and Archaeology share a Principle: It is preferable for something to be saved in situ than to be moved to a museum. No more buildings for scholars and screens in a row! Here goes the museum, at peace, without walls. So, we propose a gentle museography of the open field… which means that all objects stay where they are.

But we take measures of conservation for the wagons, the mine passages and rail tracks; and we invent ways and media to help the visitor discover the stories within the land.

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At COCO-MAT Eco Residences in Vagia beach, which offer ecological slippers and mattresses, how could the exhausted body of the miner be heard?  While the miners were the first residents of these stone built cottages, now renewed and branded.

Whenever you see the ruins of the miner company administration building, you can listen to the workers yelling and the guns targeting the first strikers for the 8-hour workday in Greece, in August 1916.

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The open field enables the visitor to connect with the notions of the past, time and space. Since tourism has been low and calm, the island has remained untouched by touristic exploitation. It has therefore preserved its character and ecology.

The whole island can be seen as an open space museum inviting the visitors to explore it. Along with their beach towels and books, give them an audio guide, place signs and maps carefully in certain points of interest.

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Cultural landscapes demonstrate whether we care about museological interpretation, collaboration and strong bonds with the local community. Because people have the power, at last!

*Calliope Oreanou and Panagiotis Frantzis are currently working on their dissertations at the Museum Studies MA program of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. They presented an Ignite on the current issue celebrating the IMD 2016 in Athens.

 

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