OLIVE AS INDUSTRIAL COMMODITY
I visited Lesbos Island, Greece, for almost two weeks in July and August. I was attracted to how much olive trees and all its related products play an important role in economic, social and cultural development of the country. I couldn't learn about this natural commodity in all aspects, so I focused on its heritage element, as part of industrial heritage of Greece.
These are what I have learned about olive from the book about Vranas Olive Press Museum, in Papados. "There are about 11 million olive trees in Lesbos Island. The bonds between olive trees and the residents of Lesbos is so deep on a practical, ideological and aesthetic level. The olive ans its oil, from a torment to the farmer and his animals, became an industry, with monstrous machines, tall chimneys and account books. Some became very wealthy, built mansions like those they saw while travelling to western Europe, dressed fashionable, created theaters and clubs. Others realized the necessity of communal organization and created associations, cooperatives and communal enterprises".
I visited two museums about olive-oil press, one in Aghia Paraskevi and the other in Papados.
The first (Museum of Industrial Olive Oil Production) is used to be a communal olive-oil press factory so storyline of the museum has a very strong character of collectiveness and roles of community distinguished profiles in supporting the local economy through olive-oil production. Most of the profiles were succesful immigrants who were originally from Aghia Paraskevi and sent financial contributions to their village.
The museum in Papados (Olive-Press Museum of Archipelagos Society) showed a former factory owned by an established clan in the area, the Vranas. The abandoned former factory was taken over by the Archipelagos Society, a group of concerned people who have ideals to conserve local culture and heritage.
Both former factories are well restored and adjusted into museums for public education and tourism. They are professionally managed, very informative and entertaining. A visitor like me who have zero knowledge about olive oil production can learn quickly and in a fun way about it. I could also learn more about other things like from a temporary exhibition about clay pottery culture of Lesbos. Or about village development financed by olive industry. Or about who was who in the local society. It is amazing how much a visitor can learn from a well managed museum.