The first fifteen years

Panorama on Soutsou Street, 1985-1999
The Panorama Cultural Society developed during this period a carefully woven fabric of activities which complement and enrich each other. The purposes running through them all include:

- to broaden the themes and horizons of historical research

- to introduce the geographical dimension as the fundamental component of historical enquiry which allows us to situate historical data in its wider context

- to shed light on the grey areas commonly overlooked in Greek scholarly research

- to assemble alongside the original source material the oral traditions and subterranean movements of the collective memory

- to contribute to the cultivation of critical thought and the restoration of a historical consciousness freed from stereotypes

- to promote the significance of the culture of Hellenism by demonstrating its range and endurance across space and time

- to study the communities and cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, Balkans and Black Sea

- to convey the relationship between history and society, and to bring to life the links between the remotest past and present day realities.

The work of Panorama, recognized both in Greece and abroad, was undertaken by the executives and members of the Governing Body, its collaborators both long-term and those brought in for special assignments, as well as the active participation of its hundreds of members who contributed to the advancement of the Society’s goals in countless ways.

The building (470 sq.m.) occupied by Panorama on Alexandrou Soutsou Street was divided into reception and meeting rooms for members, a lecture hall, a reading room, a small bookshop, a photographic laboratory, an exhibition space and the hall dubbed “The legendary Tatavla” (after the neighborhood of old Constantinople renowned for its vibrant popular color), the frequent venue for exhibitions and musical events. The archive, which was the ultimate source of all the Society’s activities, was housed in a neighboring building.

Panorama’s activities can be divided into the following groups:

- Cycles of lectures and seminars
- Educational trips and guided tours
- Music and dance programs and seminars in connection with the lectures and educational programs
- Educational and environmental programs for children (7-11 and 12-15 years old)
- Workshops: traditional oriental music and instruments, weaving, pedagogy
- Exhibitions with particular themes (historical, cultural, social, artistic).

Most of the exhibitions were housed in the exhibition space on the ground floor of the A. Soutsou building. Large-scale exhibitions, such as "The Greeks and the Black Sea" and "Thracian topography" were housed in exhibition spaces we designed specially to fit the different venues, as was the case in London (in collaboration with King’s College of London University), Thessaloniki, Komotini, Kavala and Alexandroupolis.

The painter Yiannis Tsarouchis came, together with Alexis Savvakis, to one of the musical evenings at Panorama when Agnès Agopian played the kanun and sang. The next day he sent us this letter:

"The old Ottoman songs sung by the impressive Agnès Agopian to the accompaniment of the kanonaki (kanun) are simple, like life, and complex, like life. The venue where the musicians performed was magical: a neoclassical house adorned with non-neoclassical features; wonderfully decorated with lithographs of transatlantic ocean liners was the room where we met and were treated to marvelous oriental food.

They are musical poems, free, without the symmetry of the refrain, and mean a whole stream of things without you even hearing their words. For this reason I hope they will be recorded by Agnès Agopian so that we can enjoy them as songs, even though the music itself has a voice like a hard-bitten man who speaks of life with realism, while at the same time abstracted and embellished in style. In the oriental tradition the notes are words, song is like speech. The Greek’s torment lies hidden and these songs are like spontaneous confessions.

Maria Callas once told me that is how she treats notes, like words. And Maestro Serafin said how Maria Callas was a great musician because through her system she reached the true goal of music which is not only the expression of virtuosity, but also the feeling of the work served by the music. One is lucky to hear oriental music rather than that of Vienna or Germany, which though impressive traditions, do not express a reality like our own.

It should be permissible for a non-musician to express his view about music. With music it is as with those pious worshippers who listen to the Gospels not worrying whether they understand every single word. In art we must recognize that ignorance is a parallel form of knowledge."

The study group on Hellenism and the Black Sea
The archive for the geography, history, social documentation and study of Constantinople, Thrace and the Propontis (Sea of Marmara)
The Panorama historical workshop
The cultural exchange group for collaboration with universities and other scholarly organizations abroad

Books, publications of lectures in separate volumes, exhibition catalogues, tri-monthly Panorama newsletter, travel and lecture notes, thematic series of postcards.

On the initiative of active members of Panorama, various ecological and related organizations were created and developed, aimed at the protection of natural and man-made environments. From 1986, four groups were founded, each with different, but parallel goals:

The Friends of Prespes
The Group for Nature and Man
The Friends of Greek Nature
The Friends of the Plaka of Athens

From 1987 to 1999, Panorama hosted and provided secretarial support for the Hellenic Institute of Marine Archaeology (HIMA), a scientific non-profit organization aimed at the "organization and development of underwater archaeology in Greece".