The Goulandris Natural History Museum (GNHM) is a private, non profit Institution. It consists of a 4-member Board, permanent scientific, managerial and technical staff and is supported by special scientific advisors in the fields of science and education. The Goulandris Natural History Museum was the first museum of its kind to be established in 1964, and the first to initiate environmental education in the country.
The GNHM is located in Kifissia, 14, N.E. of Athens. It is housed in an elegant neoclassical building of the 19th Century (1875) which was converted and expanded in order to satisfy the Museum’s educational and scientific requirements.
In 1991 the Museum founded the Greek Biotope/Wetland Centre (EKBY), with the support of the European Commission (DGXI) and the Greek Ministry of the Environment. EKBY’s overall objective is to help avert and reverse the loss and degradation of wetlands and terrestrial natural ecosystems, primarily in and also in the rest of the Mediterranean region.
Looking forward to the 21st Century and in view of the continuing environmental degradation, the Museum has undertaken to create the GAIA Centre for Environmental Research and Education, with the support of the European Union’s Cohesion Fund. It has been conceived as the Museum of the future, a pioneering centre of scientific research and education, which will contribute to the establishment of a new environmental policy in Greece, in Europe and internationally.
Furthermore, the Museum has renovated the Mastaba Mosque, in Rethymno, Crete, which houses palaentological and geological collections from Crete.
In 1964, Angelos and Niki Goulandris founded the Goulandris Natural History Museum as a workshop for action and research. Their work continued without publicity, in parallel with developmental investments. Theirs was a private investment of funds, time and knowledge for the creation of an Institution, whose mission was the protection of the country’s precious natural environment and the creation in youth of a new code of values, based on the balanced coexistence of man and the natural environment.
With a team of Greek and foreign scientists, the Museum proceeded to decades of researching and recording the country’s natural (biological and geological) wealth. The research and investigation of the Greek nature has revealed the biodiversity and incomparable beauty of the Greek landscape.
Greece is of particular interest because of its geomorphology, its climate and its geographical position at the juncture of three continents. has, in proportion to its size, the greatest biodiversity among European countries, as well as a high percentage of endemic species.
The Museum first opened as a that collected, studied and recorded the Greek flora. In 1977 it was expanded to cover the fields of zoology, palaeontology and geology and was renamed ‘The Goulandris Natural History Museum’.
In 1983, the “Sparoza” estate in Paiania was bequeathed to the Goulandris Natural History Museum by the British urbanist Jacqueline Tyrwhitt. The garden and the management of the 17,5 acres estate on a hillside in the eastern side of Ymittos, constitute nowadays an example of ecological Mediterranean gardening. From 1994, the “Sparoza” is also the base of the Mediterranean Garden Society, functioning as a valuable source of information addressed to those who have special interest in the plants and the gardens of Mediterranean regions.
In 1991 the GNHM founded the Greek Biotope-Wetlands Centre (EKBY) as an advisory organ to the state, whose mission is to record the Greek wetlands and to prescribe the strategy for their management and protection. Its goal is to promote the sustainable development of the country’s renewable natural resources, as well as those of other areas of Europe and the Mediterranean.
Foreseeing the rapid changes that would occur in the 21st century, the Museum proceeded to a new expansion of its premises with the creation of the GAIA Centre of Environmental Research and Education. The work began in September 1995 and was completed in 2001, with the contribution of the European Union and the Greek Ministry of the Environment. The new building bears the name of the planet Earth –GAIA- a fact that connects it to the mythology, philosophy and science of the ancient Greek world. The word GAIA is first found in Homeric epic poetry.
The Mastaba Mosque, in Rethymno, has been restored by the Goulandris Natural History Museum and has recently opened its gates as the Paleontological Museum of Rethymno (a Branch of the GNHM in Crete). It displays the geophysical development of Crete as well as important palaeontological and geological finds of the area.
The Goulandris Natural History Museum has received many honorary awards and prizes for its work, both nationally and internationally:
- Silver Medal of the Athens Academy, 1979.
- Award from the General Secretariat of the International Museum Council (ICOM) on the International Museums Day, 18/05/1992.
- Selected as a ‘Museum of Influence’ among 37 Museums worldwide by Kenneth Hudson in his book ‘Museums of Influence’, Cambridge University Press, 1987
- International Onassis Prize ‘Delphi, for Man and the Environment’,1987
- Special award as a ‘Pioneering Museum of Europe’ by the Council of Europe, 1984
- Special award, European Museums Forum, 2004