Preview | National Hellenic Museum grand opening

“Gods, Myths, and Mortals: Discovering Ancient Greece” at the National Hellenic Museum

“Gods, Myths, and Mortals: Discovering Ancient Greece” at the National Hellenic Museum Photo: Web Behrens

At a media preview on December 8 in advance of tomorrow’s grand opening, the National Hellenic Museum—which claims to be the first and only U.S. institution devoted to Greek history, heritage and culture—unveiled its new three-story home in Greektown. Sweetly situated on the northeast corner of Halsted and Van Buren Streets, just a few yards from the CTA’s UIC–Halsted stop on the Blue Line, the museum has clearly raised its own profile from humbler beginnings in a second-floor location nearby. The new building looks directly onto the neighborhood that birthed it from big, gorgeous windows that take full advantage of their southern exposure. There’s also a stunning rooftop deck, with views in three directions, where pretty much everyone will be hosting parties six months from now.

Not that your kids will care about any of that. But they will go bananas (go baklava?) for the first full exhibit inside, “Gods, Myths & Mortals: Discovering Ancient Greece.” The museum knows its demographic, which is kids first; geeky adults, second; and rockclimbers who’ve always secretly wanted to scale inside a giant Trojan horse, third. (We’re not kidding about that last part. It’s designed for anyone six and older, but you seasoned rockclimbers will have to wait through the line of kids clamoring to get inside.)

An import from the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, “Gods, Myths & Mortals” boasts a long list of super-fun interactives. They include a video game where kids play Arachne, trying to out-weave the jealous goddess Athena; Cyclops’s cave, a hut-like room complete with near-life-sized sheep; the Greek equivalent of Lincoln Logs, where kids build temples with blonde-wood pieces; and the de rigueur dress-up area. Oh, and did we mention the 13-foot Trojan horse with four levels that you can climb into? If you’re nimble enough, you can even enter the horse’s head.

Those not in the giant-horse-as-jungle-gym spirit can head up to the museum’s second floor to preview its first permanent exhibit, “In Search of Home: The Greek Journey from Myth to Modern Day.” Walls filled with photos, TV screens and art also include graffiti-style annotations from the curators. Although the handwritten notes are clearly designed (at least in part) with the general public in mind, it still feels like a nifty opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into an exhibit in progress. (The installation is expected to be completed sometime in 2012.) You and the older kids can take turns checking it out while the young ones play Achilles downstairs.

Beginning Saturday, December 9, visit the National Hellenic Museum (333 S Halsted St, 312-655-1234, Tuesdays through Sundays. Admission is $10, seniors and students $8, ages 3–12 $7. Ages 3 and under are free. “Gods, Myths & Mortals” is on display through September 2, 2012.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)