Showing results 1 - 12 of 31 for the month of March, 2013.

March 14, 2013

Does the New Acropolis Museum in Athens encompass successfully the archaeological and ancient past?

Posted at 2:03 pm in New Acropolis Museum

Annmarie Fitzmaurice has written an essay on the New Acropolis Museum. She looks at how the building combines the past with the present, including the controversy that surrounded the construction of the building on such a sensitive site.

You can view the whole essay online here.

71 Native American Hopi & Zuni masks to be auctioned in Paris despite protests

Posted at 1:57 pm in Similar cases

71 native American masks are being auctioned, despite protests from the tribes that they belonged to. There are laws in place in many countries now that cover return of human remains & there are also laws in the US relating to Native American artefacts. However, these items are not covered by any of these & as such the auction is legal. One has to ask the question though of whether it is Moral though? These items could not be taken now from native tribes in the same way as happened originally.

Indian Country Today Media Network

71 Hopi and Zuni Masks to be Auctioned in Paris
March 07, 2013

On April 12, a collection of 71 Hopi and Zuni masks will be auctioned by Neret-Minet at the Druout Richelieu gallery and auction house in Paris, France. The array of katsinam masks was amassed by a collector over the course of 30 years, and date to the late 19th and early 20th century, according to the description at (a translated version can be found at

“The idea that a people would dedicate so much time and energy to the rise of celestial bodies fascinated our collector,” reads the auction’s description. “In his collection, the CROW MOTHER mask, Angwusnasomtaqa in the Hopi language, held pride of place, and he had to wait over 20 years to attend the Powamu rituals in early February, the only time the mother of all the Katsinam appears in the village. By his own admission, you have to see the masks in dances to fully appreciate them.”
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March 12, 2013

The British museum, Free admission & the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 2:20 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

I have written a number of times here about the issue of museum admission charges. Because of the nature of most of these articles, it can come across as being critical of any museum that does not charge. This is not the case at all though & I agree with much of the content of the article posted below.

So – lets get it straight. Free museums are great.

However, perhaps we need to accept that not all museums have to be free. We have free museums in Britain, because that is the way that we do things & how our government has chosen to spend our taxes (because, without this, very few of them would still be free). This means, that we should not therefore refer in a critical way to museums that charge, as though they are somehow less worthy.

This all gets back to the arguments over the Parthenon Marbles. The British Museum has often stated something along the lines of “the collection was legally acquired from Lord Elgin and is accessible, free of charge, to millions of visitors”.

I think it is critical to look at this statement carefully bit by bit – afterall, the number of times the British Museum has trotted it out, we assume that some thought must have gone into it.

So – we have part 1: “legally acquired from Lord Elgin”. Clearly this is true, because Elgin went through a process of selling them to the British Government (although, perhaps this ought to be described as transferring ownership in exchange for cancellation of debts, as this is closer to what happened). This statement is somewhat economical with the truth – it does not delve further back, into how the Marbles came into Elgin’s ownership & the legality / legitimacy of this procedure. Furthermore, if one accepts that Elgin did not acquire them entirely legitimately, then in effect, Britain was involved in the purchase of stolen goods.

Part 2: “Accessible, free of charge”. This argument is put forward as though it is clearly a positive point, but relatively little discussion has been made on why this should be the case. We must assume that this part of the statement refers to the fact that the Acropolis Museum, in common with most Greek archaeological sites & museums has an admission charge – although, we should also note that the charge for the museum is relatively minimal – few people would be put off visiting it purely by the admission charge. This admission charge helps to fund the building & the care of the collection within it. Bearing in mind the current economic situation in Greece, I don’t think anyone would suggest that they should be spending their public funds on removing their museum admission charges.

Part 3: “to millions of visitors”. Once again, an argument is put forward without clear reasoning why the point being made is beneficial. Surely if maximising the numbers who could see it were the most important factor, then relocating the marbles to Beijing or Mumbai should be considered? Furthermore, this does not stop to consider the fact that without admission charges, the British Museum no longer has a clear idea of visitor numbers. The give an approximate total count, but because anyone can wander in & out of a building with multiple entrances, we do not really know the nature of these visits. One thing I can guarantee, is that not all these people are there to see the Marbles – there are people using the route through as a shortcut on a rainy day, meeting someone at the cafe in the Great Court, visiting a temporary exhibition, or just looking at another specific part of the museums collection. On the other hand, we could assume that for the majority of visitors to the Acropolis Museum, seeing the sculptures from the Acropolis is the main focus of their visit. From this, we can only conclude that using visitor numbers as an argument is at best misleading, without more detail to back it up.

So – free admission is great, but is it really a justification for hanging onto the Parthenon Marbles? I don’t think so.


Monday 11 March 2013
Tiffany Jenkins
Free museums – a fine example to set the world
Published on Saturday 9 March 2013 00:00

AS MUCH as it pains me to say it, the commitment to free entry to national museums, instigated by the last Labour government, is one policy that I not only support, but think was enlightened.

Back in 1997, Labour argued that in order to broaden the range of people visiting museums and galleries, there should be no charge to visit. Up until then, entrance fees could set you back between £5-10 a person, which adds up, especially if you want to take the whole family, or go more than once, which, given that most of the institutions are large and extensive, is likely.
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Returning the Parthenon Marbles for the legitimacy of the monument

Posted at 1:48 pm in Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Keri Douglas has written a great article about Dr Gary Vikan, the outgoing director of the Walters Art Museum & why he thinks the Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Athens.

His reason is simple – that it is all about the legitimacy of the monument. The sculptures belong to the monument & should be returned.

You can read the full article here.

March 11, 2013

Greek archaeological sites closed due to strikes – as tourism in the country is set increase

Posted at 1:59 pm in Acropolis

One of the most prominent signs to tourists, of the financial crisis affecting Greece, is the seemingly never-ending strikes that beleaguer the country.

While the strikers are striking for a reason, when one hears stories of people whose holidays have been ruined by them, one wonders about the effect that they have on tourism. As the second article points out, tourism is set to rise again – but everything must be done within Greece to promote this & show the tourists that they will have an enjoyable stay there.

One thing missed by many of these articles about strikes in Greece is that the New Acropolis Museum is run in a very different way to the majority of state owned archaeological sites in Greece – and as such, has never been closed due to strike action.

Greek Reporter

Strike Closes Greek Museums, Sites
By Andy Dabilis on March 8, 2013

Once again, and as Greece has picked up its campaign to lure tourists back after a disappointing last year, archaeological sites and museums were closed because of a workers’ strike against more pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions being imposed by the government on the orders of international lenders.

A 24-hour strike on March 8 shut down the sites across the country. The workers said they were also protesting plans to cut back the Culture Ministry’s operations although it is essential to the tourism industry, the biggest revenue-producer for the country.
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British Museum reunifies sculptued ancient marble panel pieces – perhaps the Parthenon Marbles next?

Posted at 1:41 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The British Museum is proud of its current exhibition off artefacts from the town of Herculaneum (and rightly so – from all the reviews I’ve seen, it is an amazing exhibition, including many items that have never been on public display before.

The interesting story though, is one of joining together pieces of a panel of carved marble – that have been separate since the time of the eruption of Vesuvius. Surely if they see the benefits in doing this with one panel, they can understand why the same should be done with far larger numbers of panels – from the Parthenon Frieze?


British Museum reunites Roman marble panels split for 2,000 years
Maev Kennedy
Sunday 10 March 2013 19.27 GMT

Shimmering as if still lit by the Mediterranean sun, two spectacular Roman marble panels have been reunited at the British Museum for the first time in almost 2,000 years.

Both come from a seaside mansion in Herculaneum, the town overwhelmed by a torrent of boiling mud from Vesuvius, when the wind changed direction 12 hours after Pompeii had already choked to death. They will be seen in the most eagerly awaited archaeological exhibition in decades, on life and death in the Roman towns when it opens at the museum later this month.
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March 8, 2013

International Byron Conference 2013 at Kings College, London

Posted at 9:05 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Events

The International Byron Conference for 2013 takes place in July at Kings College, London. Included on the Agenda is a session on Byron, Elgin & the Marbles, taking place in the Duveen Gallery at the British Museum.

Kings College London

International Byron Conference 2013
Conference Programme

BYRON: the poetry of politics and the politics of poetry
The 39th International Byron Conference

1-6 July 2013

Unless otherwise indicated, all sessions are at King’s College London Strand Campus

All timings are provisional at this stage
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Turkey using Human Rights law in its attempts to secure artefact return

Posted at 8:54 am in British Museum, Similar cases

Most would agree that in recent years, Turkey has had a rather lacklustre record when it comes to human rights (at least for some sectors of its country). The country has recently been undertaking a vigorous drive to recover looted artefacts, although this too has not been without criticism.

Now, it seems that Turkey is taking the unusual step of trying to use the European Court of Human Rights as a mechanism to attempt to secure the return of disputed artefacts in the British Museum. It remains to be seen how successful this approach is & I imagine many other countries will be watching with interest.

International Business Times

Turkey’s New Spin On Human Rights: They Can Be Used To Recover Art
By Ceylan Yeginsu | January 14 2013 2:01 PM

Turkey is one of the world’s richest countries when it comes to archeology. Located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and with a history of human habitation that dates back to the dawn of civilization, it’s especially rich in ancient Greek ruins that were created when the land that is now Turkey was known as Asia Minor, or Anatolia.

But many of those priceless relics aren’t in Turkey; they’re in Western museums. Now Turkey is trying a bold new tactic to recover them: It plans to use human rights law to get them back.
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Will Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts return disputed Benin Bronzes

Posted at 8:45 am in British Museum, Similar cases

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts recently acquired a number of disputed Benin Artefacts. These items all relate to the ransacking of Benin by the British in 1897 & the transfer of their ownership to the museum has caused much controversy.

SPY Ghana

Sun, Jan 6th, 2013
Will Boston Museum Of Fine Arts Return Looted Benin Bronzes?

By Ghana News

“The public interest must surely be in upholding the rule of law, rather than promoting an international free-for-all through the unrestricted circulation of tainted works of art. Do we really wish to educate our children to have no respect for history, legality and ethical values by providing museums with the opportunity freely to exhibit stolen property? ”

Extract from a letter by several members of the British House of Lords. (1)

Readers may recall that when the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA, recently acquired by donation a number of looted Benin artefacts, there was a large public outcry against this acquisition of blood antiquities by a leading and respected American museum. (2) The Nigerian Commission for Museums and Monuments demanded the immediate return of the looted objects. (3) Other writers also urged the return of these precious artefacts that the British had looted in a violent invasion of the flourishing Benin Kingdom in 1897. (4) Ligali, a Pan-Africanist activist group, wrote to the Boston museum requesting the return of the objects to their rightful owners. In his response to Ligali, the director of the Boston museum mentioned that his institution had informed the Oba of Benin of the acquisition. (5) An impression was thus created that the Benin Royal Family had acquiesced in the acquisition, and in any case, had not protested against it.
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March 7, 2013

Metal detectorists who looted ancient coins in UK given Anti Social Behavious Order

Posted at 2:08 pm in Similar cases

Metal detecting is a continual source of concern amongst archaeologists. While many famous discoveries have been made in this way, at the other end of the spectrum are reckless criminals who covertly ransack ancient sites with the sole intention of selling whatever they can find for personal gain.

Daily Mail

Thieves who looted coins from ancient Roman site handed Britain’s first ASBO banning them from METAL DETECTING
Peter Cox and Darren West handed suspended sentences for theft
Caught digging up land on English Heritage site in Northamptonshire
By Hugo Gye
PUBLISHED: 15:41, 3 January 2013 | UPDATED: 07:37, 4 January 2013

Two thieves have become the first people in Britain to be handed ASBOs banning them from metal detecting.

Peter Cox and Darren West were given the unique punishment after they looted ancient coins from a Roman site belonging to English Heritage.
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The Elgin Marbles & why they should be returned to Athens

Posted at 8:55 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

This article gives quite a convenient summary of what the Parthenon Marbles are & some of the key issues surrounding the case.

Live Science

Elgin Marbles & the Parthenon
Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 14 January 2013 Time: 04:33 PM ET

The Elgin Marbles, sometimes referred to as the Parthenon sculptures, are a collection of marble sculptures that originally adorned the top of the exterior of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, and are now in London, England.

They are currently exhibited, free to the public, in the Duveen Gallery in the British Museum. Although today the sculptures appear white, originally they were painted in vivid colors, something that new research is revealing.
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Should holding onto looted artefacts give museums & countries an upper hand in negotiating?

Posted at 8:47 am in British Museum, Similar cases

I have to say that I completely disagree with the general approach that this article advocates – which could be summarised, as something like: Wealthy Museums of the West (along with the countries in which they are based) can now use their disputed artefacts as bargaining chips, to secure political / cultural changes in the countries of the original owners.

If somebody robs your house, should that then give them the upper hand in securing some form of change in your lifestyle, before agreeing to return the items that they took?

Quite what gives these museums the right to enforce change on countries in this way is unclear, other than being down to the fact that they were fortunate enough to know people dis-reputable enough to have managed to acquire the artefacts in the first place – hardly a great endorsement for their policies, or for taking the moral high ground.


Looted art – hostage or weapon against terror?
Exclusive: Marisa Martin suggests U.S. start using its diplomacy tool
Published: 12/12/2012 at 8:58 PM

Vikings stormed Britain, while Mongols left Bagdad a culture-free zone. Warlords came, saw and trashed all the books and statues while they were at it. Even now someone is whacking away at the ankles of a limestone Buddha in India or Bangladesh.

Have times changed for the better?

Napoleon revitalized looting trends by demanding art from conquered Italians and churches. Since then, the Captains of Genocide have handled the art of their victims differently, particularly the Nazis. Probably the most prolific war thieves ever, they discarded entire races whiles secreting their art in stashes all over the globe. Art Loss Register, an international database, lists 300,000 missing and stolen artworks with approximately 85 percent occurring before 1945, not coincidentally with the demise of the Nazis.
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