Showing results 1 - 12 of 22 for the month of May, 2012.

May 28, 2012

Why Greece deserves the return of the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 1:12 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

A response to last week’s article by Henry Porter about why the Elgin Marbles ought to be returned to Athens.


The Observer, Sunday 27 May 2012
Greece deserves its marbles

Henry Porter (“The Greeks gave us the Olympics. Let them have their marbles”) has the balanced view, which ought to be adopted by the British Museum. The new Acropolis Museum displays the fragments that remain in Greece magnificently, in the exact lay out of the Parthenon, giving a better understanding to the visitor than is possible in the BM. To have all the marbles united, even for a loan exhibition, would enhance that and give an opportunity for artistic completion unrivalled in 200 years. Further, Greek expert conservation continues in the museum visible to the visitor: at present, laser work is cleaning one of the caryatids and is displayed on a monitor.

It was appropriate that on the day of the Olympic flame hand-over ceremony, two of the previous “stops” on the way to the Panathenaic stadium were on the Acropolis and outside the new museum. Also, at the ceremony, thousands of balloons with the words “Greece can” on them were released; for this British philhellene, it was a moving tribute to Greek pride and dignity; is the BM not able to respond?

Tim Street


Can artefacts really be more important within the British Museum than in their homeland

Posted at 1:08 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Following a visit to the British Museum, Kwame Opoku questions what significance some of the museums artefacts (that were immensely significant to their original owners) can have within the context of the museum. In the majority of cases, the answer to this would be far less. Certainly, more people may see them, but in many cases they pass by it quickly – the piece means nothing to them, once it is displayed isolated from its culture.

SPY Ghana

Sat, May 26th, 2012

A recent visit to the British Museum confirmed what we have observed in previous years: many Western visitors to the museum have no specific interest in any particular Benin object, even if they visit the Sainsbury Gallery and look at the Benin Bronzes. They are mostly unaware of the looted Queen-Mother-Idia (?Iyoba?) ivory mask.

Have the hundred years of illegal retention of this mask had any effect on the knowledge and interest of the average Western visitor to the museum? It seems hardly any European visitor is even aware that the mask represents an important personality in Benin history. Most Western visitors are certainly unaware of her important and decisive role and influence in stabilizing the Kingdom of Benin
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Opus Elgin opera about Parthenon Marbles premieres tomorrow evening in Athens

Posted at 12:58 pm in Elgin Marbles

More coverage of the Opus Elgin opera, about Lord Elgin’s removal of the sculptures from the Parthenon.

Greek Reporter

Opus Elgin Opera to Bring Light to Return of Parthenon Marbles
By Marianna Tsatsou on May 25, 2012

“Opus Elgin: The Destruction of the Parthenon,” the opera’s world premiere, will take place at Athens Concert Hall, Megaron Mousikis, May 29. This opera work is composed by Theodore Stathis, and renowned Peter Tiboris will be the musical director.

The performance, organized by the non-profit organization Imeros for Culture, is the artistic response to discussions concerning the restitution of the Parthenon Marbles. People in charge for this are trying to awaken the European public to the issue.
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May 25, 2012

Dispute over Senate bill S. 2212 over looted artefacts loaned to museums

Posted at 8:07 am in Similar cases

The Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act has stirred up quite a bit of controversy in the USA.

Many who have examined the bill (S. 2212) say that despite exemptions in the planned law, it is only really there to protect the interests of the big museums – while reducing the chances of recovering looted artefacts by the original owners (or their descendants).

New York Times

Dispute Over Bill on Borrowed Art
The heirs of Malevich sought to recover paintings, including the ones displayed above center and right.
Published: May 21, 2012

The lending and borrowing of famous artworks is the essence of cultural exchange between museums in the United States and abroad. So routine is the practice, and so universally valued, that the American government has traditionally protected it with a law that shields a lent work from being seized by anyone with a claim to legal ownership while the art is on display here.

In recent years, though, American museum directors have come to fear that this safeguard has eroded, and that foreign museums, dreading entanglement in costly ownership battles, are more hesitant to make loans. So they have asked Congress to increase the security for global art swaps.
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Symposium on criminality involving art & cultural property

Posted at 7:52 am in Events, Similar cases

Czegledi Art Law is organising a “Criminality in the art & cultural property world”.

The event takes place in Toronto on June 15th – 16th 2012.

For more information, & to book a place, view the full details here.

May 21, 2012

Olympic torch ceremony raises issues of Anglo-Hellenic disagreement over the Parthenon Sculptures to the forefront

Posted at 1:05 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

More coverage of yesterday’s article by Henry Porter, on why he thinks that Britain needs to reconsider their stance on the issue of the restitution of the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum.

Kathimerini (English Edition)

Monday May 21, 2012
Ritual reignites Marbles debate

A few days after Greece handed the Olympic Flame to Britain, which is hosting the Olympic Games in July, another eminent Briton joined the chorus of those calling for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum.

In an article in Sunday’s Observer, veteran journalist Henry Porter called on Britons to look beyond Greece’s economic crisis and consider Western civilization’s debt to the country. “I am suggesting that in the light of everything Western civilization owes Greece — in terms of democratic ideas, the Olympics, science, art and architecture — we should begin to address a simple truth: The Parthenon Marbles are not ours to keep,” Porter wrote in the piece titled “The Greeks gave us the Olympics. Let them have their marbles.”
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Birmingham University returns Native American skulls to Salinan tribe in California

Posted at 12:59 pm in Similar cases

Birmingham University has returned various skulls & bone fragments to the Salinan tribe in San Luis, Obispo County, California, where they have been re-buried.

Returns of artefacts involving human remains from institutions in the UK have now become commonplace (although there are still many more cases awaiting consideration). Pressure from the British Museum has made sure that these are differentiated from those that don’t involve human remains. So, whereas once, they said nothing could be returned, when faced with political pressure, they categorised their collection, to allow some of it to be returned, but make no difference to the case for retaining the rest of it. One could cynically argue, that this particularly appealed to them, as they had almost no items in their collection involving human remains (most of those were taken by the Natural History Museum in London when it was split off as a separate institution).

Only certain museums in the UK are covered by the Human Tissue Act, but once these institutions started making returns, the cultural climate shifted, paving the way for many more institutions to follow their lead.

So, the return of human remains is now relatively accepted (as is the one for items looted during the holocaust AKA Nazi Era) – but the campaign still needs to be won for the many other disputed artefacts that have the misfortune in not being in either of these special categories.

Los Angeles Times

Native American skulls repatriated to California from England
How seven skulls from a California tribe got to the University of Birmingham is unclear. But their return appears to be the first event of its kind in the state.
By Steve Chawkins, Los Angeles Times
May 20, 2012

Nobody thought much about the locked metal cabinet in the medical school at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. It was another forgotten fixture in the anatomy department — until a researcher last year found seven skulls with yellowing labels indicating the remains were those of Native Americans from California’s Central Coast.

Earlier this month, the skulls and several bone fragments were boxed and gingerly placed aboard a jet to LAX at London’s Heathrow Airport. In a quiet ceremony, they were reburied in San Luis Obispo County, more than a century after their odyssey began.
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May 20, 2012

Why the time to return the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece is long overdue

Posted at 1:43 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

As many (notably Mary Beard) have pointed out on twitter, this article is not without its inaccuracies – not least the fact that the photo shows a different set of artefacts & that the Vestal Virgins were from Rome, not Greece.

Despite this though (& we must remember that its hardly as though people arguing for retention of the sculptures never make gross factual errors too), the persuasive arguments made are unchanged – that Britain really needs to accept that the Parthenon Marbles don’t belong to them, and that the time when it was appropriate to return them was reached a long time ago. Lord Elgin’s conduct would be completely unacceptable today – and much as we like to imagine it was acceptable then, it was questioned by many at that time too.

As one of may examples, the speaker’s notes from when the Marbles were purchased off Lord Elgin by parliament reads:

Lord Elgin’s petition presented. The collection praised. Lord Elgin’s conduct, and his right to the collection as his private property much questioned. Petition to lie on the table.

Anyway – with the current focus on Greece, and the fact that Britain is borrowing the Olympic legacy from them, I believe, as do many others, that the time for making excuses is over & the time is now right for Britain to make a serious commitment to return them.


The Greeks gave us the Olympics. Let them have their marbles
Elgin’s behaviour would be absolutely unacceptable today
Henry Porter
The Observer, Sunday 20 May 2012

Despite the disintegration of their politics and economy, the Greeks can still muster a crew of vestal virgins to light and nurture the Olympic flame. The ceremony had a bogus feel but, dressed in that clinging material the Athenian sculptors rendered so miraculously in marble, the virgins of Vesta the goddess of fire really did look as though they had served as caryatids or just stepped from an ancient frieze.

The idea of the flame and its journey is to imbue the branded and, I have to say, slightly tiresome modern Olympiad with the spirit of the games that were first held in 776BC in honour of Zeus. But the sight of these women also reminds us that, while ancient Greece has given so much to the modern world and sets some kind of bar for all civilisation, it is dishonoured as well as honoured in the 2012 Olympic city.
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May 18, 2012

Turkey gets tough on disputed cultural treasures in foreign museums

Posted at 7:54 am in British Museum, Similar cases

Following the demise of Zahi Hawass’s restitution campaigns after the Arab Spring & the fall of Mubarak in Egypt, Turkey has recently made restitution requests for a large number of artefacts located in foreign museums around the world. Apparently, this is just the tip of the iceberg though – there are many more items on their list of requests than have been revealed so far.

Quite why they are aspiring to – or even using the term Encyclopaedic Museum (also known as a Universal Museum) is unclear though – as this is the justification regularly put forward for retention of the artefacts that they want returned by the museums that currently hold them, I’d have thought that they would be desperate to steer as far away from that term as possible.

The Economist

Turkey’s cultural ambitions
Of marbles and men
Turkey gets tough with foreign museums and launches a new culture war
May 19th 2012

IN THE spring of 1887 a Lebanese villager named Mohammed Sherif discovered a well near Sidon that led to two underground chambers. These turned out to be a royal tomb containing 18 magnificent marble sarcophagi dating back to the fifth century BC. The Ottoman sultan, Abdul Hamid II, ordered the sarcophagi exhumed, placed on rails and carried down to the Mediterranean coast, where they were sent by ship to Istanbul. The largest sarcophagus was believed to contain the remains of Alexander the Great. The coffin is not Turkish and Sidon is now in Lebanon, but the sarcophagus is regarded as Istanbul’s grandest treasure, as important to the archaeology museum there as the “Mona Lisa” is to the Louvre.

The mildly Islamist government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, led by the Justice and Development (AK) party, likes to think of itself as the heir of the Ottoman sultans. The Turkish authorities have recently launched a wave of cultural expansionism, building new museums, repairing Ottoman remains, licensing fresh archaeological excavations and spending more on the arts. A grand museum in the capital, Ankara, is due to open in time for the centenary of the Turkish republic in 2023. “It will be the biggest museum in Turkey, one of the largest in Europe; an encyclopedic museum like the Metropolitan or the British Museum (BM),” boasts an aide to Ertugrul Gunay, the culture and tourism minister. “It’s his baby, his most precious project.”
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May 17, 2012

Special events at the New Acropolis Museum for International Museum Day

Posted at 12:50 pm in New Acropolis Museum

As well as free admission tomorrow, there are also special events at the New Acropolis Museum (and a number of other sites in Athens), to celebrate International Museums Day.

Kathimerini (English Edition)

Thursday May 17, 2012
Celebrating culture: International Museum Day

It has become a regular rendezvous for lovers of culture around the globe. International Museum Day, born of an initiative by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) in 1977, is celebrated annually around May 18. Each year the global event takes on a different theme and this year’s motto is “Museums in a Changing World: New Challanges, New Inspirations.”

Heralding International Museum Day is the European Night of Museums, which takes place in the form of all-day or all-night events. Originally introduced by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication in 2005, the European Night of Museums is patronized by ICOM and UNESCO and will be celebrated on Saturday, May 17.
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May 14, 2012

A petition for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Athens by the start of the London Olympics

Posted at 3:13 pm in Elgin Marbles, Events

In this Olympic year, against the backdrop of the Greek financial crisis, I thought that the time was right, for a new petition, for people to display the level of support that the issue of the return of the Parthenon Marbles has, both from people in Britain & around the world.

Half of the surviving Parthenon Sculptures (also known as Elgin Marbles) from the Acropolis in Athens, are currently in the British Museum. They were acquired by the seventh Earl of Elgin in circumstances of highly dubious legality. For many years, Greece’s government has been asking for them to be returned.

Where would the sculptures be kept in Greece?
In 2009, Greece opened the New Acropolis Museum in Athens, specifically to hold all the surviving Parthenon Sculptures in a single place.

What would the conditions of return be?
Greece has in the past (in 2003, when Evangelos Venizelos was Culture Minister) offered to make the following concessions in the hope of facilitating return of the sculptures:

  1. That the return of the Marbles could take place as a long term, renewable loan.
  2. That the exhibition of the reunited sculptures in the New Acropolis Museum could take place as a joint co-operation between the two museums.
  3. Greece would send a series of temporary exhibits to Britain in exchange for the return of the Marbles.

We are not saying that the sculptures have to be returned by the Olympics – but that a commitment should be made by then, to enter into serious negotiations, with an aim to their eventual return.

Who has the power to return the sculptures?
We request that the British Government and the British Museum agree to set aside debates over the issue of ownership of the sculptures & engage in serious talks with an aim to equitable resolution of the current situation.

Why is this important now?
In this Olympic year, when Britain has the pleasure of hosting an event that borrows so heavily from Greek culture, now is the ideal time to make such a gesture, to give a commitment by the start of the Olympics that the sculptures will be returned. Returning the sculptures would show the UK’s willingness to help out a friend in need – to repay our debt, from the huge cultural contribution that we have inherited from Greece.

Now might not seem like the time to focus on something like this, when there are so many problems in Greece, but the reality is that it would take very little effort on Greece’s part & it would be a way for Britain (who is not contributing directly to the EU’s financial bailout of Greece) to do something to help out the country.

You are encouraged to add your name to the petition at AVAAZ here.

Please forward this to as many friends as possible, to help us achieve our goal.

How can I find out more about the Parthenon Sculptures?
If you are interested in giving more support for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures, there are a number of organisations that you can contact:

The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures comprises various organisations around the world, all of which have the aim of reunifying all the surviving Parthenon Sculptures in the New Acropolis Museum.

Marbles Reunited is based in the UK, but anyone can become a member, as long as they support the organisations aims, of returning the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum to Greece.

And, of course, there is a huge amount of background information about the reasons for the return of the sculptures & the history of the campaigns for their return on this website.

If you want regular updates, you can also follow Elginism on Facebook & on Twitter.

Share this petition with your friends – on Twitter, Facebook, or by Email.

Remember to follow the link above to sign the petition and please forward it on to any other people who you think might be interested.

Is the “Universal Museum” the museum concept of the future?

Posted at 12:52 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

A lot of effort has been expended in recent years in arguments for & against the idea of the Universal Museum. The fact remains though, that the whole concept only seems to have existed within the last ten years. Certainly, there are no mentions of the phrase in this context, prior to Neil MacGregor becoming director of the British Museum.

Surely, if it was a valid approach in the first place, more would have been heard of it prior to this point?

The fact is, that Universal Museums are self appointed. No other countries have asked them to look after their cultural treasures – and then to refuse to return the later. As such, they have no moral right to hang on to the huge numbers of items that were acquired in very dubious circumstances, carefully omitted from the labels on the artefacts today.

The National

Will the museum of the future be universal or defined by its borders?
Kanishk Tharoor
May 12, 2012

When I was a 10-year-old tourist visiting London’s museums, I had a nationalist episode. It began, somewhat narcissistically, with the coins of Kanishka, the ancient king after whom I and all the world’s Kanishks are named. Something stirred in me. “Why are they kept here and not in India?” I asked my mother (never mind that the historical Kanishka hardly ever set foot in what is now India). I marvelled at the curving sword of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, austere and proud, reduced to forlorn captivity in the display case. “Why is it here?” I trembled. And then I found Tipu Sultan’s tiger, a fierce mechanical beast engineered to ravage a wooden British soldier. That was the final straw. The very symbol of Indian resistance to British conquest now lay caged in London as an eternal reminder of our defeat. Quaking with rage, I approached the nearest security guard. “Give it back!” I yelled. “Give it back!” He refused to oblige me.

But my childish protests augured the changing spirit of the times. A rash of similar demands – more sophisticated and reasoned than my own – prompted a group of agitated museum directors to issue a defensive proclamation in late 2002. Dubbed the “Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums”, it united venerable institutions in cities across Europe and North America, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to the Louvre in Paris to the Hermitage in St Petersburg. The directors responded to what they perceived as a fundamental threat to the existence of their museums: the righteous calls and legal attempts to “repatriate” artefacts.
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