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The Acropolis Museum: a paradigm of Nations Branding in the Making

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In the gloomy after crisis general ambience in Greece, how many of us still take the time to review major achievements of the country’s reputation to the International Community?

And still, it was only three years ago, on June 20, 2009, the whole world witnessed the opening ceremony of what has been characterized by the New York Times as «one of the highest-profile cultural projects undertaken in Europe in the last decade»: the new Acropolis museum.

The inauguration day and the week of various festivities and parallel events, was the culmination of a long run project, carefully planned and implemented as part of an integrated approach.

The museum visioned to embed Greece’s cultural identity and heritage and become the vehicle for rebranding Greece, enhancing the country’s image and its capital worldwide. As it is clearly stated in its statute, claiming the Parthenon marbles was the museum’s chief goal. Such a political position brings the museum to the forefront of Greece’s cultural diplomacy.

In the early 2000’s, under the pressure of the coming Olympic Games held in Greece, Evangelos Venizelos -Minister of Culture- stressed on the argument of viewing the sculptures and the building as a whole; a single monument – the Parthenon. A unique argument in the Greek agenda that clearly distinguishes from claims of divided artifacts made by other countries. Melina Merkouri’s vision for the return of Parthenon marbles that began in the 80’s had found a new “ally”. The issue no longer lied on legal ownership. Still, to substantiate it, the construction of a new Acropolis museum was imperative.

After a series of unsuccessful design competitions, lawsuits and delays, architects Bernard Tschumi and Michael Photiadis were assigned to design the new Acropolis museum in collaboration with Dimitrios Pandermalis, the museum’s director. Unlike others, the new museum visualized to work in a holistic and natural context, so that a sense of unity between the artifacts and the natural environment (rock) is achieved.

A building of steel, concrete and glass, an “anti Guggenheim” design, the museum acts as an understatement on its own, allowing the exhibits to shine. Glass plays an ‘operative’ role. Glass walls of the Parthenon gallery offer the visitor a harmonious blend amongst contemporary Athens and its past. A direct visual connection is established as the frieze and the statues are displayed in front of an immense glass wall looking up at the Parthenon.

Carefully thought, all artifacts can be viewed in a similar spatial proportion to their original location. Furthermore, the use of replicas next to the originals is an outmost original idea and technique, unique in terms of museology standards. Of optimum importance light is used as a theme to add a fourth dimension to the ancient artifacts. Display lighting reveals the color variation of the surviving collection from the missing pieces. One can easily detect the contrast between the whiteness of the copies and the honey colored marbles.

In terms of communications strategy, the effort was dual: putting forward the concept of the monument’s entity and uniqueness but also branding the museum as a cultural product of superb quality. This product entails the masterpieces of classical art and the museum itself, both as a construction and as a location. Besides, the museum’s design and architecture are a component of the communications strategy. The idea is to create a sensation and to stress the uniqueness of the monument as an archeological site per se, inseparable from its surrounding environment and functioning as an entity.

Branding a state-of-the-art museum involved the creation of a new landmark for Athens and Greece. The museum would be the flagship of the nation’s  archeological museums. Dimitrios Pandermalis stated: “it is a national project which promotes the classical identity of the Greek Nation and the global importance of classicism for art history and for culture in general.” To engage with its audience, the museum would have to manage how people perceive Greece. After all, perception is reality.

The next level of communications strategy involved the visualization of those perceptions, via symbolisms and connotations. The use of replicas, for instance, next to the original sculptures has explicit connotations to the absence of body parts residing in the British Museum. The visual recreation of the Parthenon frieze fiercely suggests the sculptures’ liaison to the monument and enhances the aim of claiming the sculptures.

Furthermore, the notion of a modern Greece that moves alongside its cultural past was visualized through the videos projected at the grand opening ceremony. Created by Athina Tsangari and accompanied by the music of Dimosthenis Gasparatos. The large-scale outdoor projections functioned as powerful and evocative tools of creating symbolisms and encoding emotional messages. Images, along with the music created a narrative. The figures become alive and start their journey to their new home, eager and content at the same time. Antique and contemporary Athens meet and mingle.

In addition, the same connotation of reuniting the Parthenon sculptures in their new home was propagated through the images of the artifacts being transferred from the Acropolis rock to the museum. A different but powerful symbolism was created through the strategic and symbolic role assigned to both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Culture on the inauguration day: to put back to their place missing parts of the exhibits. A political thesis is acclaimed.

The role of the media in broadcasting and diffusing all of the above mentioned intended messages was of crucial importance. The new Acropolis Museum was a world-scale event since its construction, raising international public awareness and a series of political, legal and aesthetics discussions. Thus, it has helped revive the interest in Greece’s classical heritage and grow the movement for the unification of the Parthenon marbles.

The museum has been a huge success; it figures on the top list amongst Greece’s archeological museums in terms of the visitors’ numbers. The publicity it attracted has urged the return of at least 25 missing artifacts including fragments of the Parthenon frieze from Italy, Vatican, Germany and Sweden. It is also successfully branded and identified with Greece at a national and international level. Currently the option of the marbles being sent back to Greece on a loan as become a possible solution. Still the British Museum stands firm to its position to retain them. For howlong?

* Peggy Kapellou and Maria Kyriakopoulou are specializing on Cultural Diplomacy, at the Universite de Strasbourg, International Relations seminars, offered in Athens via City U.

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Pakistan and India: Changing Minds, Winning Peace

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Aaghaz-e-Dosti, Indo-Pak Peace Calendar

With the emergence of world as a global village, relations between two nations getting more popularity as compared to relations among respective governments. Governments always attempt to communicate with foreign public to export their ideas, its institutions and culture, as well as national goals and current policies. Public diplomacy can be defined as the efforts of one nation to influence public or elites of the next nation for using foreign policy to achieve its targets and cherished goals. Pakistan and India as two rival nuclear powers in south Asia have fought many battles because of their conflicting regional interests and still both states are on the edge of a new war. This leaves public diplomacy as the only option to normalize the situation.

Many efforts have been made in nineties during the democratic government in Pakistan which can offer a wide canvas for interaction such as South Asian Dialogue, Pakistan Peace Coalition and Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy. More recently two media groups one from each country has started a media campaign Aman ki Asha to promote sector-wise cooperation and engagement on both sides and provide a human touch to serious matters of war and conflict.

This campaign has organised several events bringing people of two countries to a common forum including women empowerment, poverty alleviation and basic human rights. Every year many Sikh’s Visit Pakistan to pray their Holy Places and Pakistani people always welcome them and show hospitality. Many civil society organizations and NGO’s are working to promote peace and harmony between Pakistan and India which include South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA),Pakistan Green Circle Organization (GCO),ISSP etc. Both countries also paying much attention in education sector as well.

In present time, the tension is decreased because of human rights, civil society , artists  , scholars role which brought two countries closer to each other and is also providing new ways for a peaceful and democratic relations. Both countries also relaxed their citizens for visas making it more comfortable. Not only this, both countries are also paying attention for releasing prisoners from jail.

We found our many artist like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is working for Indian industry. Rahat Fateh considered as a success symbol for films in India. So media can bring the people of two  nations closer to each other and create harmony between both nations.

Every year, Aaghaz-e-Dosti launches an Indo-Pak Peace Calendar which includes paintings from students of both countries. This calendar exists of shared dreams of peace and friendship. It is a reflection of shared dreams and hopes from both sides for a better tomorrow. In addition to these efforts, there has been a rise in trade between both countries. This multi-layered diplomacy has ensured that during the time of tension, links between both sides were not totally broken

Lastly cricket diplomacy has played and still can play a pivotal role in bringing both nations together beyond anyone’s imagination.

Public diplomacy in its real sense can bring these two rival countries closer to each other as it enables a country to reach out to a large audience in the other country, whether through social media or books or events for a greater good. It can lead us towards social and economic development in which both the countries lag behind from the rest of the world.

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UK Public Diplomacy: Soft Power games in South Asia

Hajra Batool

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Public diplomacy refers to the ability of a country to attract foreign states through image building rather than using old coercive and stiff methods to forcefully get the things done in one’s own way. One may say that public diplomacy is a public face of traditional diplomacy. In this diplomacy neither a relationship that a state has with other state can be neglected nor the role of public in the government’s policies. States use various ways to stand tall on international forum thus no state ever wants to do anything against their international reputation. This reputation is achieved through huge efforts and then requires consistency to maintain it. Britain with no denying fact is among those states who have been prominent in international society since centuries. It already has a better and strong image in the eyes of world as for as its public diplomacy is concerned. All it needs to do is to maintain this very image by sticking to its various soft power approaches.

In today’s global politics Britain seems much interested on enhancing its soft power image throughout the world. As we know that Public diplomacy of a state is highly linked with state’s foreign policy as well. The steps adopted by Britain in achieving its foreign policy goals through soft power include exchange programs for students and scholars, visitors programs, cultural events and exchanges, language training, radio and television broadcasting etc. Generally, Britain has been carrying out these practices all around the globe for quite sometimes however in South Asia, she has done a lot in recent years. In Bangladesh in 2013, for example, the English in Action project (funded by the UK’s Department for International Development) promoted the learning of English ‘as a route into work and out of poverty’. In Pakistan, British Council has been working in the areas of Arts, Education, English and Youth Engagement in all four provinces as well as in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. For instance Abaseen Foundation is a UK’s 3-year project with UK Aid directly focused on improving maternal health and reducing child mortality through developing health service delivery for a poor and marginalized community in North West Pakistan. Moreover, UK-India Education & Research Initiative i.e. UKIERI is a multi-stakeholder partnership program funded by both Indian and the UK Governments to support educational programs, develop professional capacities and facilitate policy dialogues on areas of mutual interest. Whereas Sri Lanka has the largest British Council Library membership.

In similar manners Nation branding is another technique used by the Great Britain to cash their better reputation. This not only provides an opportunity for states to interact on international platform but also mitigates cultural barriers among their citizens. Brands such as Burberry London, Dove and Sunsilk are acting as sensor that opens diplomatic door for Britain in various states. Actress and Model Humaima Malick is the brand ambassador for Sunsilk in Pakistan, whereas Sunsilk’s brand ambassador for India is currently Alia Bhut. The overall nation branding of Britain is famous owing to six factors i.e. Tourism, Culture, People, Immigration-Investment, Exports and Governance. According to one of the British Council’s report the UK ranked 3rd out of 50 nations for Tourism and 5th for Culture.

Furthermore, British government entities related to public diplomacy are well active in South Asia, for instance British Council and FCO (Foreign and common wealth office). BBC on the other hand is also playing its key role to inculcate right image of United Kingdom in the region.BBC Urdu not only provides its Pakistani viewers with right information of Pakistan in Britain but also shares unbiased analysis on Pakistan’s current domestic as well regional issues. Similarly BBC Hindi has also been so vociferous for the rights of Indian immigrants in United Kingdom and finally gained trust in public masses. Hence these public diplomacy techniques served as binding force between the UK and the region.

To cut the long story short, Britain seems much focused to safeguard its national interests. Its foreign policy is proving as stepping stone for its national interest whereas public diplomacy is acting as lubricant to it. By doing so it is successfully promoting its culture, tradition, products etc. in the world generally and in South Asia specifically. Since decolonization from subcontinent, The United Kingdom has always tried diplomatic ways to build friendly relationship with south Asian countries. Public diplomacy though is considered new in the racks of overall diplomacy yet UK has successfully used it to promote its culture and to keep influence in this region.

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Italian Culture: An asset for country’s public diplomacy

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Public Diplomacy is important for long term relationship and to create a positive image of a country. Italy, a European country with a long Mediterranean coastline, has left an effective mark on Western culture. Its capital, Rome, is home to the Vatican and also point of interest for ancient remains.  Over the span of 3,000 years, Italian history has been set apart by series of temporary unification and long detachment, of intercommunal friction and failed empires. At peace for more than half a century now, Italy’s inhabitants enjoy a high standard of living and a highly developed culture.

One example of Italian Public diplomacy is the exhibition of “Italian Style dressing body and daylife”, which was organized in Doha (Qatar) by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture, which opened on 12th November, 2007. That day, the Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano, inaugurated an event about Leonardo, composed by the Ministry of External Commerce. Napolitano presented the Emir’s wife, Moza bint Nasser al Missned, with a Bulgari handbag (a popular Italian brand) as National brands are helpful for attracting people’s attention towards a country and showing its quality.

The Year of Italian Culture in the United States was a phenomenal act of Public diplomacy. The fellow Italians in the United States, among them 26 million Italian Americans – companies, and institutions that worked hardly day and night to promote the “Italian brand” and even the press, which gave many positive articles to the initiative that felt the strong urge to rediscover the charm of Italy’s past, to uncover the best of its present, and to feature the examples of how it is progressing towards the future. This has done to open new doors for the citizens of both countries.  It’s about over 200 events in more than 200 U.S. cities. The main objective of this campaign is to bring the best of the most important country (Italy) which they have to depict through its culture, traditions and the elegance of its ‘Made in Italy’. “Italy inspires U.S.” is the slogan that has been chosen to best enfold the meaning of the Year of Italian Culture in the U.S. what they want to express is that Italy is not just a country, it is a lifestyle.

On December 12, 2012, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, Italians inaugurated the exhibition of the popular David Apollo by Michelangelo. On this date, a huge number of visitors, observers and enthusiasts were all ready enjoy their ‘piece of Italy’ i.e. paintings, sculptures, present and past achievements, music and theater. Above all, the Year brought new partnerships between public and private world of two nations: among them, a cooperation agreement between NASA and the Italian Space Agency and in addition various new agreements between museums and cultural institutions, companies, local agencies and universities were made.

The Italian government should organize some more events and undertake nation promoting projects including its territorial and regional brands, with a basic aim of giving guidelines for Italy’s external cultural relations, through the promotion of their single regions and also national language and culture.

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