Benaki Toy Museum in Athens


My inner child is very excited with the opening of the long-awaited Benaki Toy Museum in Athens! And in my neighbourhood too!

As of Sunday, October 22nd,  Benaki Museum welcomes children and adults in the Museum of Toys on Poseidon avenue 14 & Tritonos 1, in Palaio Faliro . The Museum aspires to become a favorite destination for children and adults alike and owes its creation and a part of the operation on a number of significant and generous donors, sponsors and supporters.

The fairytale villa that houses the Toy Museum was built between 1897-1900 by Spyros Despozito, a mining entrepreneur who only lived there for six years. From 1906 to 1923 the building was rented by George Miliaresi, a doctor who used it as a spa and a private clinic, addressed to members of the high bourgeois society of the time. After the death of Despozito in 1911, the building was bought by a wealthy ship owner and benefactor, Athanasios Koulouras. Koulouras moved to the villa in 1923, along with his sick wife Helen and Vera Kalogera, who was taking care of her. Helen died in 1929. A year later the ship owner married Vera Kouloura and she lived in the villa until her death in 1979. In 1976, following the desire of her late husband, she donated the building to the Benaki Museum in order to be transformed into a museum itself.

 

The architecture of the building consists of mainly Gothic elements with references to the European Middle Ages and Baroque. One can admire the Art Nouveau ceiling paintings and murals. The building was listed by decision of the Ministry of Environment in 1997 and restoration procedures began in 2011 under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture.

Maria Argyriadi, donated in 1991 to the Benaki Museum her collection of toys, one of the ten best in Europe! She began her collection around 1980, consisting today of over 20,000 toys, books, brochures, clothing and objects of childhood, coming from Greece and the wider areas of Hellenism as well as from Europe, America, Africa and Asia. She donated the collection when she realized that the ultimate beneficiaries should be children. The 3000 exhibits currently seen on display will alternate with other games and objects through thematic exhibitions.

The collection aims to display various aspects of the theme “Child and Play”, while narrating the imaginary everyday life of children, from the 17th century until nowadays.

At the entrance, the visitor is welcomed by a large doll of Dionysis Fotopoulos and a wooden horse, a gift of Eleftherios Venizelos to his favorite grandson, Lefterakis.

The itinerary begins with children’s games from the Roman antiquity to Byzantine times.

In the main exhibition area, a room is dedicated to the traditional Greek society. In other displays, one admire dolls in Greek costumes, miniatures, a doll of Queen Olga and the shadow theater. There are soldiers and war games, dolls from children’s literature, comics and heroes from the movies.

THE DONOR

Maria Argyriadi was born in Athens and studied sculpture at the School of Fine Arts. She is a member of the United Federation of Doll Clubs. She has written four books and has participated in many collective works for children’s play.

EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS

With the opening of the museum, the Educational Programs of the Museum Benaki will welcome children to the discover its magic by offering especially designed tours for students of nurseries and primary schools as a start. Information: education@benaki.gr

Opening Day:           October 22nd, 2017

Opening Hours:       Thursdays to Sundays, 10:00 – 18:00

 

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