What happens to culture once the country is struck by the hardships of the economic crisis? I think we all know the answer to this one, and Greek cultural institutions on the verge of a break down, only confirm the rule of marginalization of culture in the times of recession. Due to the budget cuts some of the museums in Greece are forced to close their doors to the public as the funding of these institutions was cut. This is just one in the series of events if we have in mind that the government funding for cultural institutions was drastically lowered in 2010, and it continues to fall as the economic situation worsens.
So is this the smartest move? If we look at Greece as the birthplace of the Western society and the cornerstone of European civilization whose culture has shaped the identity of Europeans for millennia, than we need to ask - why is the government cutting the funds instead of making their cultural heritage one of the central parts of the economic recovery program? Do you save money by closing the archeological sites and museums, or can you actually profit by promoting them as part of the tourist offer?
Six years ago, when Euro Debt crisis became a serious issue all over Europe, the Greek Ministries of Culture and Tourism have merged in order to save budget expenses. This is no coincidental decision as the role of the cultural heritage holds the most important part when it comes to the sites which attract tourists the most. But how can you provide quality cultural programs and maintain infrastructure of the museums when the budget spending is decreased to a minimum, and many institutions cannot afford to pay the utility bills, let alone keep the staff members or fund new exhibitions. For galleries and other cultural venues that do not fall under the direct financial government funding plan it is a bit easier since they can always count on support of the private funds. However, the biggest victims are national cultural institutions such as museums, forced to gradually close parts of their collections and archaeological sites that are being deserted due to the lack of financial support. In the time of crisis, some of the institutions have implemented DIY economic measures by forming alliances, collaborative networks and signing agreements on common ticket policy. However, if the government's neglect of cultural institutions continue, many of them will be forced to shut down their doors for good.
So how can you support art and culture and help Greece to overcome critical economic problems? As recently suggested by The Guardian, you can show your support and solidarity by going there on a holiday. That way you can enjoy all the vacation benefits this beautiful Mediterranean country has to offer and see some of the pillars of European civilization by visiting archeological landmarks. Simply by choosing Greece as your holiday destination you are injecting much needed cash into the devastated Greek economy. So travel to Greece this summer and make a donation by visiting some of the greatest museums in Europe. And also hurry up, because by the time you get there some of them may have already closed.
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