The Capodistrias Museum – Center for Capodistrian Studies is the first and only museum in Greece devoted solely to the life and legacy of Ioannis Capodistrias, and has been open since 1981. It aims to take visitors on a journey through the history of Corfu, Europe and modern Greece, following the events of the life of the first governor of the Greek state.
The old country residence that houses the museum belonged to the Capodistrias family at least from the 18th century until a few decades ago. In 1979, in a move that greatly benefitted the area, Maria Capodistria donated it to three historically significant Corfiot cultural organisations, the Corfu Reading Society (founded 1836), the Philharmonic Society of Corfu (founded 1840), and the Society for Corfiot studies (founded 1952).
Maria Capodistria-Desylla was a significant figure in Corfu. Born in Athens in 1898, she settled permanently in Corfu in 1928, together with her daughters from her first marriage to Loudovikos Skarpas, Eleni and Dareia. In 1931, she married she married the successful Corfiot industrialist Stamatios Desylla. She became involved in a variety of activities, making an especially valuable contribution to the Red Cross. Following the sudden death of husband at Christmas in 1956, while he was still in office of as mayor of Corfu, she was elected mayor of the city of Corfu, becoming the first elected female mayor in Greece.
The museum was founded in 1981 and, for many years, due to a lack of funds and specialist staff, its activities were quite limited. In 1998, with funding from the then Prefecture of Corfu, and with the participation of the then mayor Andreas Pangratis, three rooms were renovated and the collection was put back on display. For the traditional Ionian Island architecture of the building, the garden, and the characteristic design of the surrounding areas, the Ministry of Culture declared it a protected historical monument in 1995.
From 2007, the significant annual donation by the grand benefactor of the museum, the Corfiot businessman and Swiss resident Christos Fokas, allowed the museum to develop its activities, leading to a constant increase in the number of visits, and, every summer it hosted notable events in the garden.
In 2012, the museum closed temporarily for renovations. Its inclusion in the LEADER programme–under the supervision of the Development Company of the Prefecture of the Ionian Islands and the Ministry of Rural Development–allowed the museum to modernise and redesign the permanent exhibition and the surrounding grounds. At the same time as the renovation, the museum went ahead with important work for the development of its research and educational roles, as well as networking with other museums and cultural and intellectual bodies/archives connected with the life and legacy of Ioannis Capodistrias. It created a specialist research team, headed by the emeritus professor of the University of Crete, Christos Loukos, which designed a digital platform to interconnect sources from archives and libraries in Europe. The digital archive can be accessed worldwide via the museum’s new website. The Ioannis Capodistrias Digital Archive and the museum’s webpage were created with funding from the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation and went online in 2016.
In October 2017, the renovated Capodistrias Museum-Center for Capodistrian Studies was opened by the president of the republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who stated in his speech that, ‘This is the most important moment‘ of his political career.
The modernised Capodistrias Museum – Center for Capodistrian Studies is now recognised as a modern museum and important location in Corfu, providing a high level of services, each of which helps to fulfil its aims, which are the preservation, study and presentation of the legacy of the Governor, both for the specialist, as well as for the wider and international public.