History Museum in Bulgaria’s Burgas Sees More Income from Fewer Visitors in 2015, Improves Archaeological Exhibits

History Museum in Bulgaria’s Burgas Sees More Income from Fewer Visitors in 2015, Improves Archaeological Exhibits

A poster for the "Treasures of the Burgas Museum" exhibition which was opened in August 2015. Photo: Burgas Regional Museum of History/Burgas Museum of Archaeology

A poster for the “Treasures of the Burgas Museum” exhibition which was opened in August 2015. Photo: Burgas Regional Museum of History/Burgas Museum of Archaeology

The Regional Museum of History in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Burgas has seen an increase in its revenue in 2015 despite a decline in the number of tourists visiting it and the sites that it manages.

2015 was a hard year for the Burgas Regional Museum of History, and the drop in the visitor numbers had been expected since the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, Museum Director Milen Nikolov has told Radio Focus Burgas.

“What our analysis has shown is that we really must emphasize advertising which is a major factor in the generation of revenue,” he is quoted as saying, noting that an added expense for the Museum has been a new requirement of Bulgaria’s Finance Ministry that all museum exhibitions have individual cash registers.

“We are now looking forward to some increase of the government subsidy [of the Museum]. All in all, our difficulties have to do with funding. We have lots of ideas but they remain just ideas when we don’t the funds to realize them,” Nikolov adds.

He explains that in 2015, the management of the Burgas Museum has taken measures to increase its own revenue, and they have worked out.

“First of all, we prepared intriguing exhibitions for the summer season (such as the “Treasures of the Burgas Museum” exhibit – view poster above – editor’s note). Then we changed the working hours so that during the active tourist seasons the museums [which are part of the Burgas Regional Museum of History] were opened for 9 hours a day. As a result, we saw an increase in revenue despite the overall decline in visitor numbers,” the Director elaborates.

He has not provided specific figures about the Museum’s total income and tourist numbers in 2015 but has revealed that the revenue has grown by 20%-30% year-on-year.

What is more, the team of the Museum has worked actively on the assessing its existing inventory and the categorization of newly found archaeological and historical artifacts.

“The Burgas Museum of Archaeology [which is part of the Burgas Regional Museum of History] is currently working on dividing the collections for the Prehistory, Antiquity, and Middle Ages. It’s something that had not been done until now,” Nikolov says.

He has reminded of the important scientific results that the Museum’s archaeologists have achieved with the summer excavations in the two ancient and medieval cities that predate today’s Burgas: the Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve and the Poros (Burgos) Fortress on Cape Foros:

In Aquea Calidae – Thermopolis, the archaeologists have found an ancient inscription providing valuable information about the history of Ancient Thrace in its last years before its conquest by the Roman Empire. It is dated back to the 20s-30s of the 1st century AD, roughly about the same time as the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

It belongs to Apollonius, son of Eptaikentus (Eptaykent), who was the strategos (military governor) of the lands around the city of Anchialos, today’s Bulgarian Black Sea resort of Pomorie. More read here.

The most intriguing recent archaeological find from the excavations of the ancient fortress Burgos (Poros) on Cape Foros has been а previously unseen Early Christian bronze medallion, which has been discovered during the excavation of a building from the 6th century AD.

The medallion in question is the second notable Early Christian artifact discovered in the Burgos (Poros) Fortress in 2015, after in the spring the local archaeologists found there a lead reliquary containing ashes from the grave of St. John the Baptist.

“In 2016, the Burgas Museum of Archaeology is planning to continue to improve its exhibitions. That will be a lot of work but what has already been achieved is also substantial,” concludes the Museum Director.

In addition, he has announced that the building of the Burgas Museum of Natural History is also going to be renovated.

Background Infonotes:

The originally Ancient Thracian city of Aquae Calidae (meaning “hot waters” in Latin) is an archaeological site located on the territory of Bulgaria’s Black Sea port city of Burgas, on the site of today’s Burgas quarters of Vetren and Banevo. It is proven that Aquae Calidae – known in the Middle Ages as Thermopolis or Therma – was visited by important ancient and medieval rulers such as Philip II of Macedon (r. 359-336 BC), Byzantine Emperors Justinian I (r. 527-565 AD) the Great and Constantine IV the Bearded (668-685 AD), Bulgarian Khan (or Kanas) Tervel (r. 700-718/721), and Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520-1566 AD). Archaeological excavations have found that the Aquae Calidae mineral baths were used as early as the Neolithic Age, with three prehistoric settlements being located there in the 6th-5th millennium BC.

The Ancient Thracians settled near the mineral waters in the middle of the 1st millennium BC, turning the major spring into the revered ancient “Sanctuary of the Three Nymphs” by the middle of the 1st century AD when the Roman Empire was wrapping up the conquest of Ancient Thrace. The earliest written testimony about the ancient spa resort Aquae Calidae dates back to the 4th century BC when Philip II of Macedon went there. The name b comes from the name of a Roman road station near the mineral springs which was erected along the major Roman road Via Pontica running along the Western coast of the Black Sea. The Sanctuary of the Three Nymphs was revered in Roman times. The Roman baths at Aquae Calidae were rebuilt and expanded in the early years of the Byzantine Empire – the 4th-5th century, with fortress walls constructed during the reign of Emperor Justinian I the Great.

In the Middle Ages, Aquae Calidae became known as Therma or Thermopolis (“warm city” in Greek). In 708 AD, Khan (or Kanas) Tervel, ruler of the First Bulgarian Empire, defeated the army of Byzantine Emperor Justianian II (r. 685-695 and 705-711 AD) in the first Battle of Anchialos close to Thermopolis, conquering the ancient and medieval “spa resort” for Bulgaria. Another interesting episode from the history of Thermopolis has to do with the so called Latin Empire established when the knights from the Fourth Crusade conquered Constantinople.

After Tsar Kaloyan (r. 1197-1207 AD) of the Second Bulgarian Empire defeated the crusaders in the Battle of Adrianople in 1205 and captured Latin Emperor Baldwin of Flanders (also Baldwin I of Constantinople), the next year the Latin Emperor’s brother, Henry of Flanders, marched against Bulgaria conquering Thermopolis, looting the city and burning it to the ground. The city of Thermopolis never recovered even though the mineral baths themselves were rebuilt later and used by Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent in 1562. In modern-day Bulgaria, in the 20th century the town near the mineral baths was known as Banevo until the 1980s when it was renamed to Burgas Mineral Baths; it became part of the city of Burgas in 2009.

Aquae Calidea – Thermopolis was first excavated in 1910 by renowned but controversial Bulgarian archaeologist Bogdan FIlov (known as Bulgaria’s pro-German Prime Minister during World War II). The contemporary excavations were started in 2008 by Senior Fellow Tsonya Drazheva and Ass. Prof. Dimcho Momchilov. In 2011, the ancient and medieval city was formally declared “The Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve”.

The ancient and medieval fortress and port of Burgos (Poros) is located on the Cape of Foros in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Burgas. It was first excavated in 2008 by archaeologists Milen Nikolov (currently Director of the Burgas Regional Museum of History), Dr. Tsonya Drazheva, and Konstantin Gospodinov, after access to its site was denied for decades because of the existence of a nearby military base which has been closed down in recent years. Part of its fortress wall was first discovered in 1989 during the construction of a cow farm. Even though there have been traces of ancient life, the fortress and port city of Burgos (Poros) on the Cape of Foros in Bulgaria’s Burgas is dated back to the Late Antiquity / Late Roman period, with the Bulgarian archaeologists uncovering a large number of buildings, artifacts, and pottery vessels dating back to the 4th-6th century AD. Their excavations have revealed a complex set of fortifications, including walls, ramparts, and towers, which were rebuilt and reorganized multiple times from the 4th until the middle of the 15th century, and were in use throughout this entire period by different states: the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Bulgarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire.

Some of the more interesting finds including a stone block with an Ancient Roman inscription in Greek mentioning the name of Roman Emperor Gordian III (r. 238-244 AD); a 2nd century AD inscription carved into stone stating that “burgi” (fortifications) were built on the border of the Roman colony of Deultum (located some 10 km inland from the Black Sea coast near today’s town of Debelt) – hence, possibly, the name Burgos; a basilica; the remains of a small monastery called “St. George” which is described in a 13th century Byzantine source; the 6th century lead tube reliquary containing ashes from the grave of John the Apostle in Ephesus, Anatolia.

The Foros pennisula was marked on Italian and Catalan maps from the 13th-17th century as an old fortress and port under the name Poro (strait) or Poros, which means that the fortress defended the waterway entry point of the nearby Lake Mandra which flows out into the Black Sea. A stone inscription dating back to the 2nd century AD (presently exhibited in the Burgas Regional Museum of History) discovered on the site states that “burgi” (fortifications) were built on the border of Roman colony Deultum (located some 10 km inland from the Black Sea coast near today’s town of Debelt). Historians believe that there used to be a large fortified port along the waterway between Lake Mandra and the Black Sea which served and protected the Roman city of Deultum. The Roman road station called Pudizo marked in the 4th century Tabula Peutingeriana (the Peutinger Map showing cursus publicus, the road network in the Roman Empire, covering Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia) has been discovered in this same area.

The area of the Burgos (Poros) fortress and the Cape of Foros is also famous for being the site of a major battle during the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD). The so called Battle of Skafida (named after the Skafida River and the Skafida Fortress, another medieval fortress located nearby) took place in 1304 AD when the forces of Bulgarian Tsar Theodore Svetoslav (r. 1300-1322 AD) defeated the army of Byzantine Emperor Michael IX Palaiologos (Palaeologus) (r. 1294-1320), after having reconquered earlier the nearby Black Sea cities of Rusocastro, Mesembria, Anchialos, Sozopolis and Agathopolis. The victory in the Battle of Skafida helped the Second Bulgarian Empire regain most of the region of Thrace from Byzantium bringing it a period of relative stability at the beginning of the 14th century, after feudal strife had put it in a state of permanent dynastic crisis at the end of the 13th century.