News

LEGO Acropolis open for the young and young at heart


5 July 2013

The iconic Acropolis of Athens, recreated in LEGO.
The iconic Acropolis of Athens, recreated in LEGO.

With sticky fingers, loud voices and destructive tendencies, kids can be a museum curator's worst nightmare. Not at the University of Sydney's Nicholson Museum, however, who are hoping their latest exhibition will bring in thousands of children.

On Saturday 6 July, the Nicholson Museum will open its doors for the young and young at heart to explore the LEGO Acropolis, a free exhibition that celebrates one of the ancient world's iconic landmarks, the Acropolis of Athens.

Following the success in 2012 of the Nicholson Museum's LEGO Colosseum, the LEGO Acropolis exhibition will show the Acropolis both as it was in the fifth century BC and as it is today as one of Greece's most popular tourist attractions. The model will also include the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a large stone amphitheatre built in 161AD and still used as a concert venue.

The exhibition will open with a series of free, fun events on Saturday 6 July in the University's Quadrangle, including a talk by LEGO builder Ryan McNaught, traditional Greek dancing performances, re-enactments by Hoplite soldiers of life in Ancient Athens, Greek food, and the chance to handle real ancient Greek artefacts.

Crowd favourite LEGO Elton John has been confirmed as the headline artist in the LEGO Odeon, while those with an eye for detail will find LEGO Lord Elgin stealing the marbles from the Parthenon, LEGO Theseus winding his way through a labyrinth to face a LEGO minotaur, and LEGO Tony Mokbel, the Australian fugitive caught in Athens in 2008, looking suspicious in an ill-fitting wig.

The model depicts life in Athens in LEGO form.
The model depicts life in Athens in LEGO form.

The exhibition will also feature ancient Greek archaeological artefacts from the Nicholson Museum's extensive collection, including sculpture, pottery, and original 1890s photographs of the Acropolis.

As with the LEGO Colosseum, the model has been built by Australia's only LEGO Certified Professional, Ryan McNaught, in Melbourne. It has taken him nearly 300 hours and more than 120,000 LEGO bricks to build.

The Senior Curator of the Nicholson Museum, Michael Turner, hopes that the LEGO Acropolis will capture the imagination of children and ignite a lifelong passion for museums and learning in general.

"I remember going to the British Museum as a kid, and can still remember the experience vividly. It was so completely different to anything else I'd ever seen," Turner says.

"Increasingly, museums and galleries around the world are realising the importance of engaging with kids - and, in this online age where images are everywhere - the challenge. If we can create an extraordinary experience, an enormous LEGO model in a museum of antiquities, then it's likely that they'll never, ever forget it."

The Nicholson Museum is the only museum in Australia to have signed up to the manifesto of 'Kids in Museums', an independent charity in the UK dedicated to making museums open and welcoming to all families, in particular those who haven't visited before. The manifesto includes advice such as 'don't say ssshhhush', 'be height and language aware', and 'invite teenagers into your gang'.

LEGO Elton John performing in the Acropolis.
LEGO Elton John performing in the Acropolis.

More than 550 organisations across the UK and internationally have signed up to Kids in Museums, including the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tate Modern and the Natural History Museum.

"Kids came in for the LEGO Colosseum with their parents specifically to see LEGO, but they saw and experienced everything else in the Nicholson Museum, including our sculptures, our artefacts and especially our Egyptian mummies, an eternal favourite.

The LEGO Acropolis exhibition will open with a series of free, fun events on Saturday 6 July in the University's Quadrangle, including a talk by LEGO builder Ryan McNaught, Greek dancing, Hoplite soldiers re-enacting life in Ancient Athens, Greek food, and the chance to handle real ancient Greek artefacts.

The LEGO Acropolis follows the success of the Nicholson Museum's LEGO Colosseum and is the second in a trilogy of LEGO reconstructions, with LEGO Pompeii set to follow in 2014.

The 2012 LEGO Colosseum was the most popular exhibition in the Nicholson's history, with more than 80,000 visitors. Turner hopes the Acropolis will be even more successful, and is aiming for 100,000 visitors.

"It's inspirational, it's absolutely that. It gets kids thinking about the ancient world. It will, I hope, inspire them to want to know more - and there is so much more - the history, the myths, the gods, the buildings, the sculpture. And one day maybe they'll stand on top of the Acropolis and say, 'So this really is real, just like I saw in the Nicholson Museum'."


Event details

What: The Acropolis exhibition, including a Lego model of the Acropolis of Athens and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus

When: Opening events Saturday 6 July, 10am to 4pm. Exhibition also open on Sunday 7 July, 10am to 4pm

Where: Nicholson Museum, southern entrance of the Quadrangle, Camperdown Campus

Cost: Free

Senior curator of the Nicholson Museum Michael Turner: "If we can create an extraordinary experience, an enormous LEGO model in a museum of antiquities, then it's likely that they'll never, ever forget it."
Senior curator of the Nicholson Museum Michael Turner: "If we can create an extraordinary experience, an enormous LEGO model in a museum of antiquities, then it's likely that they'll never, ever forget it."


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Media enquiries: Katie Szittner, 02 9351 2261, 0478 316 809, katie.szittner@sydney.edu.au