The island of Symi, which through the centuries met so many conquerors until it finally, enjoyed its freedom and independence house two museums to keep the memories alive. These are the Naval Museum at Gialos and the Archaeological and Folklore Museum at the Horio (Ano Symi).
A visit to the Naval Museum of Symi is a pilgrimage to the naval tradition of the island where through the exhibits the visitor will travel back in time and get to know how the life of the Symiot fisherman, sailor and merchant was then.
The Naval Museum was established in 1983 and in 1990 was housed in one of the most representative houses of Gialos, where the central shipyard used to be. It preserves Symi’s naval history with many exhibits. There is a special section dedicated to sponge diving as well as models of sponge fishing vessels.
Stories of the past will come to life, when necessity and the need to make a living made the Symiot men embrace the sea and become the most competent and inventive in their trade and craft than any other nation.
The visitor will see how the sponges were processed, how the Symian shipyards transformed Symiot pine trees into fast ships renowned throughout the seamen’s world, learn the terminology of “skafes”, “caique”, “kagaves”, “varkalades”, “skounes”, the naked “voutiktades” and the “kabanalopetra”. The visitor will also meet Stathis G. Hatzis (1878-1936) the Symiot naked diver whom hold the world record for diving at 84 meters.
Among the museum exhibits the visitor will also see the diving suit that was introduced in 1866 and how it brought a division between the old way of life and the new in which many suffered the bends. In the end the visitor will appreciate even more the way of sponge diving life practiced by the Symiots since ancient times, which opened sails to the Libyan coastlines to the coastline of Asia Minor, from the beginning of May till the end of October. In the end the visitor will be sorry to found out that 1960 was the last year that sponge fishing was last practiced bringing this archaic legacy to its end.
“Time for sponges is near and the dream will sail…”
Archaeological and Folklore Museum
The Archaeological and Folklore Museum is located near the St. Athanasios in Horio. Founded in 1961, it is housed in a traditional Symi mansion, the “Arhontiko”, owned by Nicolaos K. Farmakidis and donated to Archaeological Service by Ariadne and Sevasti Farmakides. The museum is split into five sections, each one dedicated to different period of time.