Growing up in a home filled with antiques and collectibles and spending her childhood getting lost at archaeological sites, it’s no surprise Mariza Karidi has become a History and Philosophy student at the Kapodistrian University of Athens, and creator of “The Girl in the Museum,” a popular Greek blog informing and inspiring people to visit museums.
IN+SIGHTS GREECE recently spoke with Mariza about her love of history and culture, her favourite galleries, and her desire to open up her own museum.
Tell us about your work and studies.
Capturing the moment was my passion from an early age. I have a Photography degree from Middlesex University, and I’m also finishing my second degree in History and Philosophy of Science at the Kapodistrian University of Athens. I couldn’t be happier with my choices as I had a blast doing art and museology courses at both universities. Presently, I’m spending days freelancing, self-managing my properties, writing about museums, and being a student. Also, I take environmental activism pretty seriously, so I would add that to my profession.
How did your passion for museums and history begin?
My father loved to learn and share his knowledge. Because of him, I spent my childhood getting lost in museums, attending lectures for grown-ups, and discussing deep topics with his intellectual friends. He also loved to collect rare maritime antiques and wanted to build a museum for them. So, my house looks like a museum because it’s full of his collectibles until this day. Sadly, he passed away nine years ago but, happily, he managed to pass his passions on to me. Whenever I’m in a museum, I feel at home, and I aspire to start my own museum one day.
What was the idea behind your blog ‘The Girl in the Museum‘?
It’s a pity there are so many blogs about travel, beauty, cooking, but only a few about museums and none of them in Greek. People – especially Greeks – need to know that museums are not boring institutions that our school teachers force us to visit. They are inspiring, mindful, liberal places, and everyone would have a favourite one if they gave it a chance. In fact, the experience of being in a gallery could be life-changing, and that’s why doctors prescribe museum visits as a treatment. Some doctors are even convinced that in the 21st century, culture will be what physical activity was for health in the 20th century. Therefore, I make sure to take my museum-pill daily, and then I blog about it, so more people will benefit from it.
How many museums (roughly) have you visited?
More than most people, but less than I would like to. I advise you not to count stars, summer swims, and museum visits. All should be uncountable.
Do you have a Top 3 list of museums- worldwide and in Greece?
It’s a tricky one. Housed in a stunning example of neo-Gothic architecture, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History is breathtaking, and it has to be on my list. Next, the Science Museum in London because if you are a science lover like me, you’ll feel the unique energy at the very moment you enter the building. Plus, if you’re also a coffee lover, you’ll be able to hold a good cup of coffee while wandering around the exhibits, and no one will blame you. And, of course, I can’t stop talking about Forte di Belvedere in Florence ever since I visited, because of its magnificent views. Interesting fact, that’s where Kanye West and Kim Kardashian got married. As for Greece, the Acropolis Museum deserves its fame. I also adore the Museum of Asian Art in Corfu- the only museum in Greece dedicated to Asia’s art. Lastly, the Herakleidon Museum in Athens explores the intersection between maths, science, and art. Believe me when I say it is one-of-a-kind.
Do you have a preference for modern or classical museums?
I appreciate both, but classical museums housed in buildings full of history, wooden floors, and natural light, like the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, have my heart.
What do you enjoy most when visiting a museum?
Museums are not only institutions that care for a collection of artifacts. They are great places to get inspired, have a first date, work remotely, read a book, relax, and share a cup of coffee with friends. Therefore, I could revisit a cultural organisation every week. My favourite thing to say is that there are a thousand and one ways of visiting a museum, and none is better than the other.
Do you spend hours walking through a gallery?
It doesn’t take me long to see an entire exhibition, but, oh, how I could enjoy the ambiance of a museum cafe all day long. What makes me come back is the unique interiors, the friendly museum guards, and the attention to small details. Furthermore, all museums should be free; thus, everyone, rich or poor, has access to such significant cultural resources. Considering that, free admission is much appreciated.
Is there a certain period of Greek history or archaeology that you feel most drawn towards?
I have been studying Ancient Greek Philosophy for years. I’ve always been fascinated by images of a bunch of bearded men, wearing himations, strolling around Athens, and trying to answer deep questions while flirting with each other. It is tragicomical and genius at the same time.
What museums and archaeological sites- famous and not so well known- would you highly recommend?
For the ones who like large and famous museums, the British Museum in London has it all. For the folklore enthusiasts, the not so known Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne will be a surprise. For some vintage aesthetic vibes, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, founded in 1683. For the lovers of Greek history, the National Historical Museum in Athens, and Poseidon’s temple at Cape Sounion. And for the real museum geeks, the Criminology Museum, which functions on the grounds of the Medical School of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Due to the nature of its exhibits, the Criminology Museum is open to the public only by appointment. If you’re feeling lucky, go there and try to find a professor who will be kind enough to let you in. And remember you have to promise not to photograph the collection of the human remains.
Is there a region in Greece you think is particularly wonderful for museum lovers?
Of course, museums are thriving in Athens and Thessaloniki. Still, I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of culture in sparsely populated regions. The Peloponnese is full of museum-gems, and the same goes for the Aegean Islands, especially Andros and Syros. The thing about museums is there is always one that you find by accident and it was the best one of your life.
What museum will you be exploring next?
I’ve spent all my life in Athens, but only recently I’ve heard about the Vorres Museum, which lies in the shadow of Mount Ymittos. It looks lovely in pictures, and I can’t wait to visit. As for the future, Paris is always a good idea.