The past twenty years have been a new and exceptionally creative era for Byzantine studies and Byzantine museums in Greece. New Byzantine museums have been established, presenting finds from long-term systematic archaeological excavations by the Archaeological Service of the Ministry of Culture and Sports, and older museums have redesigned the exhibits of their collections. New interpretative methods, innovative approaches, and the use of advanced technologies have created a contemporary museum environment that is both attractive and accessible to the wider public.
Interest in Byzantine civilization has been further strengthened by the flourishing of Byzantine studies in major European and American universities, and has manifested itself over the past twenty years in the presentation of important exhibitions on Byzantium both in Greece and abroad.
Within this climate of creativity, new pursuits, and extroversion, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports in collaboration with the Benaki Museum is offering its own contribution to international exhibition activity with the traveling exhibition `Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections`. The exhibition, to be shown in two leading U.S. museums, presents aspects of Byzantine civilization through featured works of high historical and artistic value in addition to recent excavation finds from public, private, and ecclesiastical collections.
The exhibition is accompanied by the present volume and the companion study `Heaven and Earth: Cities and Countryside in Byzantine Greece`, in which prominent Greek and foreign scholars contribute to the enrichment of contemporary research on Byzantium, providing the international scientific community as well as the wider public with stimuli for new scholarly interpretations and research.
Two of the exhibition`s main goals are to familiarize visitors with Byzantine civilization, which is an integral part of Greece`s cultural heritage, and to highlight the important role played by the Greek region within the broader context of the Byzantine Empire. Above and beyond this, however, we believe that this multifaceted exhibition will form another link in the chain of acquaintance, friendship, and cooperation between the Greek and American peoples, and further the climate of dialogue and exchange of ideas at the international level.
I wish to congratulate and extend my thanks to all the exhibition`s contributors, both Americans and Greeks, who collaborated harmoniously and with noteworthy zeal toward its realization and exceptional attractive and scholarly presentation.
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