January 12, 2004

Huge support for Marbles return shown in new poll

Posted at 2:02 pm in Elgin Marbles, Marbles Reunited

A new poll shows that the vast majority of people in Britain now feel that the Elgin Marbles should be returned to Athens.

The Times

January 11, 2004
Public shows huge support for return of Elgin marbles
Richard Brooks, Arts Editor

NEARLY three-quarters of people believe the Elgin marbles, which have been in the British Museum since 1816, should be returned to Greece, according to a poll to be published this week.

Support rises to more than 80% for a suggestion that they be loaned to Athens with the museum retaining ownership, the survey by ICM shows.

A poll two years ago showed less than half the public supported returning the marbles, originally part of a frieze around the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis.

Under one proposal, the marbles would be exhibited in Athens during this year’s Olympics. The museum in Bloomsbury, central London, opposes returning them or lending them to Greece.

The poll carried out last month was commissioned by the lobby group Marbles Reunited and will be highlighted at the launch on Wednesday of a campaign to have the stones housed in a new museum beside the Acropolis.

The campaign group has the backing of the former foreign secretary Robin Cook, the actresses Vanessa Redgrave and Fiona Shaw, and the Olympic gold medallists Linford Christie and Tessa Sanderson.

“The marbles should go back to where they belong, in Greece,” said Sanderson, now vice-chairman of Sport England. “All the more so as a gesture for this Olympic year. You can relate more to them being there than in the British Museum.”

Anthony Snodgrass, emeritus professor of classical archeology at Cambridge University and a leading campaigner for restitution of the marbles, said: “Support has grown for the marbles to be reunited as the British people now understand the conditions which the Greek government has put forward, including this planned museum, and the fact that it is Olympic year.”

Momentum for change is also gathering among museum staff around Britain. According to a poll by the Museums Association, more than 90% of employees support some form of return of the marbles. “The British Museum could be bold and offer to loan some of the most famous pieces from the marbles for the period of the Olympic Games in a suitable venue in Athens,” said Maurice Davies, deputy director of the association.

It had been hoped that the new Acropolis would be ready this year as the proposed site for the marbles, but it is behind schedule.

The British Museum says its ownership of the marbles is legal because it paid for them in the 19th century.

Officials point out that only some of the marbles are in London. Much of the Parthenon was destroyed and of the remaining stones, Greece has about 40%, with the rest in other museums around the world. The museum also says it has never had a formal, written request for the marbles’ return.

The Scotsman

Sun 11 Jan 2004
4:53pm (UK)
Britons ‘Back Parthenon Marbles Deal for Olympics’

The “vast majority” of Britons support a Greek proposal to return marbles removed from the ancient Parthenon for display in Athens during the Olympics, the government’s top games official said.

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos today renewed a plea to the British Museum in London to loan Greece the collection – also known as the Elgin Marbles – for the August 13-29 Games.

“The start of the Athens Olympic Games in August 2004 must find the Parthenon Marbles united,” Venizelos said in a statement.

“The citizens of Britain in general, but also the visitors of the British Museum and the workers at British museums in their vast majority accept the Greek proposal.”

Venizelos said he will hold “important” meetings with British government officials on the subject in the coming weeks.

The British Museum in London acquired the marbles in 1811 from Lord Elgin, British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire which at the time included Greece.

Greece is hoping to display the sculptures, removed from the Parthenon in Athens, at a purpose-built museum currently under construction in the Greek capital.

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