The picturesque stone-built museum in Schimatari is among the oldest of the Greek region. It was constructed in the last decade of the 19th century at the expense of the Athens Archaeological Society
and was inaugurated in 1904. An extensive programme of restoration and renovation was completed in 2006, along with the reorganisation of the museum exhibition which unfolds the history of the area in chronological entities, that cover the whole spectrum of antiquity, from the Mycenaean to the Roman periods (16th century BC-4th century AD).
The focal point of the exhibition is ancient Tanagra, the great Boeotian city, which flourished from the late 4th and particularly during the 3rd century BC, as the telltale finds from its ancient acropolis and cemeteries narrate. The land of Tanagra also yielded the renowned Tanagraies
, namely the clay female figurines, which present an impressive variety of forms, postures and colors
; these statuettes were found in hundreds in the graves of the Hellenistic cemetery of Tanagra and date from the 4th century BC to the 1st century AD. Due to their fame, however, Tanagraies
became the most frequent victims of looting and illicit trade of antiquities, already since the 19th century. Thus, the majority of the known figurines
today are to be found outside Greece, while those deriving from archaeological excavations are exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum
in Athens and in their birthplace, at the Museum of Schimatari.
The museum also hosts a rich collection of burial finds, including grave offerings and larnakes
(chest-shaped coffins) from 16th-11th centuries BC Mycenaean tombs, relief stelae (burial slabs), but also rare burial monuments, such as temple-like structures, altars, offering tables, ranging from the Archaic to the Roman times, that is from the 7th century BC to the 4th century AD. In addition, a considerable amount of pottery, sculptures and inscriptions display the power and wealth of ancient Tanagra, especially during the Hellenistic times, when the city reached its apogee. Among them visitors may admire exemplary specimens of pottery with painted decoration of the so-called Western Slope or with relief decoration, like the bowl which probably represents the abduction of Ganymedes by Zeus. An important piece of historical evidence comprises the inscribed stele with the names of the Hoplites from Tanagra, who fell in the battle of Delion against the Athenians in 424 BC, when the Peloponnesian War was raging in Greece.