An Insider’s Perspective: Finding Inspiration in an Ancient Greek City

Jean-François Léger

Mycenae’s Grave Circle A and Lion Gate (upper right). Photo: Andreas Trepte/Wikimedia Commons

Mycenae’s Grave Circle A and Lion Gate (upper right).
Photo: Andreas Trepte/Wikimedia Commons

Some of the things we experience in life have the power to change us forever. I had one such experience in Greece last year while working on the development of the major international exhibition, The Greeks – Agamemnon to Alexander the Great.

I am responsible for providing visitors to the Canadian Museum of History with a meaningful and engaging exhibition experience, and I was in Greece seeking a better understanding of Ancient Greece, while also looking for the kinds of exciting visitor experiences that our team might develop. Driving from Athens to Mycenae in the Peloponnese, I contemplated a landscape that, with its mountainous slopes and fields of olive trees, provided a backdrop for everything I saw and experienced later that day.

When we arrived at the famed archaeological site of Mycenae, I was already feeling an indescribable sense of place as I walked up the pathway to the Lion Gate and into the massive stone walls of the citadel. At my side were Greek archaeologists who were living encyclopaedias and unending sources of knowledge about this ancient fortress, its people and its burial grounds. We walked among the curving, intricately shaped walls. We talked about the people of Mycenae — their lives, their customs, their beliefs. And we carefully examined artifacts in the adjacent museum.

I suddenly had the most extraordinary sensation. I truly felt, standing on the summit of that hill and listening to my learned guides, that I had come into real and immediate contact with the immortal heritage of Greece. And I realized that this guided tour, this moment of engagement with history, with learning, with the landscape, was the same multi-dimensional experience that we were striving for at the Canadian Museum of History. The ideas, the objects and the stories of this legendary land all came together for me in one extraordinary and memorable moment.

This is what we hope to give visitors to The Greeks. More than a simple tour through history, with a dry list of dates and facts, we want to provide them with a multi-faceted experience developed by a dedicated team and supported by an innovative storyline and design. Like myself in Mycenae, I hope our visitors will engage with the exhibition in four diverse but integrated ways: contemplating the incredible craftsmanship and splendour of outstanding world treasures; being stimulated by compelling ideas that have survived down through the ages; engaging in the legendary stories of Ancient Greek heroes; and feeling, if only for a moment, as though they are themselves walking the streets of immortal Greece.


    Jean-François – you have more than achieved what you set out to do – bravo! The exhibition is sensational.

  • Jacinthe Caron

    Thank you for sharing your story and for creating a Greek experience that is truly unforgettable.