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The Currants Museum

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“Thematic museums” are a worldwide conquest of science, ethnology and museology and are regraded as evidence of social and financial relationships. Projecting the specific productive procedures they become witnesses of social mentalities and bring out patterns of the productive procedures..

The history of the raisin is directly linked to the industrial history of the region and naturally such a museum is a beacon of education and civilization, admired to the present day by the people who have visited it and have had the guided tour in the full of exhibits exhibition halls. It should be highlighted that rescuing the archives of the business is something unprecedented, as it gives the whole picture of the business course of the Couniniotis family, without any gaps or discontinuities, and is a unique case due to the fact that only a few records of raisin traders have been salvaged, which however present many gaps.

The museum firstly presents a hall with tools, machinery and raisin production and processing related objects from the end of the 19th century and the beginnings of the 20th century. On the walls there are old cultivation tools, divided in different categories. There is also a post-war machine used for ploughing the currant crops which completes the tools used in an era of limited technological infrastructure, where the hard to find farm hands delivered such a difficult task, as the cultivation of currant crops.

Moving on, there are wooden boxes, coffers as they were called, in different sizes and special little barrels, which were used for transporting – exporting raisins/currants, so that the visitor to the museum can comprehend the different ways of packaging. In the same place where the different packaging stages are presented, there is a machine – a press which used to press the raisins in the boxes, two manually operated machines which were used to tighten and cut the steel band around the wooden boxes after they were fixed together, different life size human effigies wearing uniforms worn for different kinds of work in processing raisins, as well as women effigies wearing white uniforms and caps showing women workers who used to deal with the selection and cleaning of the product, and finally a pre-war machine which used to cut the stems off the raisin and which was called “cleaning machine”. In the same room there are many metal plates – seals on display which were used to mark the boxes, a manually operated dividing machine from the 1880 and a marking machine used to print on the boxes the name of the product with the method of pyrography (pokerwork). The whole presentation is completed with different photographs placed on the walls, flags of many different workers’ unions and the archives of the Raisin Packaging Union of Patra “Sympraxis” dating back to 1950 which belongs to the Couniniotis Museum, as well as its flag.

In the lower right section of the corridor, after two consecutive rooms – offices, there is a hall with exhibits having to do with the industry and the nation, with pre-revolution and post-revolution flags from different regions of Greece, men and women effigies wearing traditional farmers’ clothes, everyday clothes as well as their festive attires, which were common towards the end of the 19th – beginnings of the 20th century. On another wall there is a panel with the photographs of close collaborators and suppliers of the company and next to it there are many awards presented to the company for the good quality of their products. There are also photographs and miniatures of ships in the harbours of Patra and Aigio loading or unloading raisins and photographs of the owners of the company’s ships. Finally in wooden display cases all over the place there are different kinds of memorabilia and anniversarial objects that the company has had made to offer to friends and customers. Also in other display cases, next to the aforementioned objects, there are many kinds of evidence of the company’s past, amognst them and more significant the financial ledger of Georgios V. Couniniotis, dating back to 1876, old books and trade documents, customs receipts from 1875, and other evidence of the commercial activity that had to do with raisins even before 1875.

It would be unfitting not to include in this collection the offices and the furniture used by the founders of the Couniniotis Group which are exposed in a specially designed room. On the desks the visitor can see their ink bottles and everything else they used, such as personal objects, while on the walls there are old photographs and old family portraits of them.

There is also an impressive big English wooden clock, dating back to the beginnings of the 20th century, which was used by the employees to stamp the time of their arrival or departure. Moreover there is a big safe, a press for copies, scales for weighing the raisins, a huge pot which used to be filled with water for the employees to drink, two miniature ships, typewriters, a telephone exchange and many other small objects filling this room which emits a creative ambience, present in the core of this business trough the years. The visitor will be moved by the letter announcing the reopening of the museum after the devastating earthquake of 1995 which is exposed in a related display case.

To the right at the back of the corridor there is a hall where many important heirlooms are exposed, as well as portraits and precious documents of the Companys’ register. The ambience is magnificent and the visitor is awed by what they see, exhibits salvaged by the founder of the museum after many sacrifices through earthquakes, fires, military occupations and many other ordeals that hit the business in the course of time. The furniture is valuable, while in the glass exhibit cases on the wall there are awards and honorary distinctions awarded to the company and its owners, together with letters, blessings and thanking cards sent by distinct politicians, businessmen and diplomats, both from Greece and aboard.

Finally, in another room, there are the dominant portraits of the ancestors of the familyy, first being the one of the fighter Anagnostis Kouniniotis, while in front of every portrait there are, in separate exhibit cases, the personal objects of each of them (stylographs, glasses, briefcases etc.) as well as weapons and machetes belonging to the ancestors who were soldiers.

It is imperative that we mention at this point the family registry, which has been salvaged and includes commercial documents, contracts, legal papers, letters, correspondence with foreign houses, invoices, ledgers, photographs, wills, documents regarding awards and honorary distinctions, merchandise lists, customer correspondence and wishing cards with Bishops, Kings, Presidents of the Republic, Prime Ministers, Ministers, Ambassadors, Members of the Parliament, Businessmen etc. The richness of the archives and their uniqueness, as their completion is concerned, and the continuity they offer a researcher, make this register a valuable ark containing the history of the raisin- complemented by many newspaper clippings mentioning overwhelming events which have attracted the interest of the Greek and international public opinion.

In conclusion we should mention that the gem of the Museum is the album issued by the company, containing the full history of the Corinthian raisin from the ancient times to the present day. The title of this voluminous album is inspired by the love of the family for the product itself and is also the slogan of the Museum;

«Corinthian Current, a princess through the ages».

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