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May 2008

The Cyprus Museum in Jacksonville, NC

In July 1974, Turkey forcefully invaded the island of Cyprus with Turkish forces occupying 37% of the island’s northern territory. The operation led to the widespread death and displacement of Cyprus's ethnic communities, dividing the island between a Turkish Cypriot north and Greek Cypriot south. In offering this extremely brief history of a part of the Cyprus experience, I hope to reveal to you the importance of the Cyprus Museum in Jacksonville, North Carolina. The history of Cyprus was being inextricably lost on a devastating level prior to the invasion and thereafter even though there were laws in place to prevent removal of antiquities from the country.

These acts of theivery could have dissemated the centuries old history of a country had it not been for the foresight of an extremely proactive individual . . . Dr. Takey Crist. Concerned about the cultural heritage of his parents’ homeland, Dr. Crist recognized that “the cultural heritage and beauty of a country was being destroyed, traded, bartered and exchanged every single day.” While on a visit to New York City, Takey saw two artifacts and, knowing that by this time nothing was moving out of Cyprus, he purchased these works of Cypriot art. “After seeing the two pieces in New York, I thought it would be a great idea if we (Cypriots and lovers of Cyprus and Greece) could all get together and start collecting this stuff?” The collection started to grow with the assistance of famous auction houses, donations, as well as a network of contacts.

The collection grew and now includes: ancient pottery and sculptures which date from the early Bronze Age, medieval maps, folk handicrafts, Byzantine icons and religious items, archaeological studies, resource materials on Cypriot governmental documents, videos, photographs and many materials on the Women’s Walk Home campaigns. The Cyprus Museum has preserved and houses more than 4,000 years of history through it’s accumulation of the numerous antiquities. The objects are identified by carefully prepared labels and temptingly displayed in beautifully appointed modern wooden cabinets with lighting designed to accentuate color and form.

The Cyprus Museum, established in 1988, is located in Jacksonville, North Carolina, known as the home of the largest Marine amphibious base in the world. It has welcomed visitors from Ireland, Greece, Cyprus and England and it is hoped that, in the future, a more convenient location will be found to house the collections. The museum, housed in a 2,500 square foot building, contains source materials on modern Cyprus and a myriad of Cypriot antiquities which have been carefully and lovingly collected by the members of the Cyprus Museum. It also acts as a resource center where, every year, students spend time researching information about the island and its history. The museum is the only place in the United States that immortalizes the history of Cyprus.

With the assistance of the museum and its protector, Dr. Takey Crist, several books have been published, including Cyprus Coins by Gar Travis. Mr. Travis, a coin collector since youth and a numismatist for more than a decade, is a native North Carolinian but now resides in couthern California. From Cyprus to Onslow County, North Carolina, a history of the Cypriots and Greeks immigrated to and assimilated into the society of Jacksonville and Onslow County, North Carolina. This book, written by this author, was written for two reasons. First and foremost, it is and was a gift given to the families of Harry and Gus Crist, Steve Stefanou, Lawrence John Melts and the other famlies of Greek heritage with whom I was fortunate enough to know my entire life; but, most especially for Ireni Savas, Costas Christofide . . . . Irene Crist . . . . better known to her adoring public as YaYa. The secondary motivation was that these wonderful men and women helped to mold the county and our lives and I wished that everyone could know the same wonderful people that I know. Takey Crist, the adored son of Irene and Harry Crist, has been the brother with whom I was never blessed; however, I was blessed to have been allowed to be a part of his family and be one of YaYa’s many children and grandchildren.

It is my sincere prayer that you, the readers of this article, will recognize the desperate need to continue the collection and protection of the antiquities of Cyprus. It is essential that lovers of Cyprus, Greece and the associated history and antiquities assist with fundraising for The Cyprus Museum. We need not only the ability to rescue additional pieces of art but funding to keep the museum open and available for research and instruction of historians and the lay public who garner so very much from the mere fact of its existance. Should you wish to make a completely tax deductible donation, it can be sent to The Cyprus Museum, 250 Mwmorial Drive, Suite 1974, Jacksonville, North Carolina 28546.

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