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by Alexia Vlachou

ATHENS, May 20 (Xinhua) -- Among numerous artifacts from Greek antiquity, in the Altar main hall of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, visitors had the opportunity to travel back in time through the theatrical reading of Homer's Odyssey, one of the most epic poems of ancient Greece, on the occasion of the International Museum Day on Wednesday.

The National Archaeological Museum, among the most significant museums in the world, housing the richest collection of antiquities, celebrates this year its 150th anniversary since its operation with a series of events that run until May 22.

"We celebrate the International Museum Day, along with all the museums in the world and in Greece. The International Council of Museums (ICOM) - Hellenic National Committee has chosen us as the museum of honor," director of the National Archaeological Museum, Maria Lagogianni told Xinhua.

"Our collections are from the richest in the world. 11,000 exhibits dated from the 7th millennium BC to 5th century AD can be found in the museum's permanent collections," she added.

Beneath the bustling with life halls of the museum, an altogether different world is hidden providing a panorama of Greek civilization.

"There are 200,000 antiquities in the storerooms, a source of knowledge for hundreds of scientists from all over the world," Lagogianni revealed.

"On the occasion of our anniversary, we will inaugurate our large temporary exhibition entitled 'Odysseys' which is based upon the symbolisms and the facts of Homer's Odyssey next October. The theatrical reading is a herald and prelude of our temporary exhibition," Lagogianni added.

Odyssey, the story of the Greek hero Odysseus who wanders for 10 years trying to return to his home island after the fall of Troy, continues to grip the contemporary imagination.

"I came from the recitation of the first rhapsody and it is amazing. I feel like a little child, like they tell me a fairy tale. It is very experiential, every rhapsody is performed by another actor and the atmosphere is different. I want to stay until midnight, I don't want to miss a moment," Anastasia Vlachaki told Xinhua.

A total of 61 famous actors and actresses from the National Theater of Greece participated in the marathon recitation of the 24 rhapsodies of Odyssey combined with music until midnight.

International Museum Day is organized worldwide on May 18 by the ICOM to raise awareness about the contribution of museums in the society.

Noting the significance of the museums, Vlachaki added that museum is a space that should be more experiential. "All these statues have a history and energy. That energy must be shared with the people through interactive events and exhibitions," she said.

In the same line, Lagogianni praised the social role of the museum. "The museums are not designed for the archaeologists. Our role is to provide research and knowledge to the people. The social character of the museums is vital for their sustainability. People's response to what we do strengthens our commitment. That is why we organize a lot of events and we are very pleased when we see people coming," she stressed.

"Museums are not passive places, where scientists make a research or others just enjoy the exhibits. They are interactive spaces and must be more experiential. In the museums, the treasures of our cultural heritage meet the present. They connect the past with the future through the present," Greek Culture Minister Aristeidis Baltas said during the ceremony.

Museums in Greece marked the International Museum Day with a series of special events including free exhibitions, workshops, special performances and concerts.

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