August 16, 2004

British government refuses to intervene in Elgin Marbles case

Posted at 11:55 pm in Elgin Marbles

One of the promises from the Greek government in their requests for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, was that in return, museums around the UK would be lent other Greek exhibits. A point that was picked up by many of the regional museums in England, although the British Museum has thus far not acknowledged the potential benefits this would have.


Minister refuses to play marbles game
Aug 16 2004
Martin Shipton, The Western Mail

AS THE Olympic Games get under way in Athens, Greek campaigners for the return of the Elgin Marbles can take comfort from the knowledge that one Welsh council is on their side.

Monmouthshire County Council backed the campaign after being told there was a possibility other artistic treasures from Ancient Greece could be sent as a quid pro quo to local museums.

Now, however, the council’s arguably impossible dream seems even less likely to be fulfilled after Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell reiterated the Government’s refusal to intervene in the issue.

According to your point of view, the marbles were either looted or saved from imminent destruction by Lord Elgin 200 years ago.

Regarded by many as the jewels of the British Museum, their continued presence in Britain is a matter of continuing controversy.

Councillors in Monmouthshire voted in May to back the campaign to return the marbles to Athens after being told that sculptures that had never before left Greece could come to the county’s museums in return.

But after writing a letter to Ms Jowell, an official from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has written back saying, “The UK Government is aware that the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures (as the Elgin Marbles are known in Greece) is one that provokes very strongly held views.

“However, I can confirm that since the sculptures form part of the British Museum’s collection, they are entirely a matter for its trustees who are independent of government.

“While the museum has not received a formal loan request, the issue of a loan of the sculptures has been debated by the Museum Trustees on several occasions.

“They continue to believe that the British Museum is the best place to house the Parthenon Sculptures where they can be seen in the context of their rich contribution to the whole of humanity.”

Monmouth AM David Davies said, “Much as I would have liked to see exhibits of the calibre of the Elgin Marbles in the Nelson Museum at Monmouth or in the Abergavenny Museum,I never felt this was a runner.”

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