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Marbles Reunited campaign launch

The Marbles Reunited [1] campaign draws on high profile supporters to raise awareness for the issue of the Parthenon Marbles.

From:
The Guardian [2]

Group Demands U.K. Return Elgin Marbles
Thursday January 15, 2004 12:16 AM
By BETH GARDINER
Associated Press Writer

LONDON (AP) – Activists launched a fresh bid Wednesday to persuade the British Museum to return ancient sculptures from the Parthenon to Greece, saying even a loan would be a huge step forward.

The activists, whose group is called Marbles Reunited, said Greece had suggested the British Museum retain ownership and control over the so-called Elgin Marbles but display them on long-term loan at a museum being built at the Acropolis in Athens.

In return, they said, Greece would agree to lend other valuable antiquities to museums around Britain, including the British Museum in London. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said Britain had not yet received the proposal but was aware that it was on the way.

The sculptures, considered among the most important artworks in the Western world, were created 2,500 years ago to adorn the Parthenon and depict an Athenian procession. Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, bought the statues in 1803 and shipped them back to London, where they became part of the British Museum’s collection.

Britain has repeatedly rejected the idea of returning the marbles, and British Museum director Neil MacGregor did so again in a statement.

“The British Museum is a truly universal museum of humanity, accessible to five million visitors from around the world every year,” he said. “Only here can the worldwide significance of the Parthenon sculptures be fully grasped.”

Ellen De Wachter, a museum spokeswoman, said officials had not received a loan request from the Greek government and declined to comment on whether they would consider one.

The marbles have been an irritant in relations between the two countries for years. The British Museum pieces represent about half of the remaining Parthenon sculptures and Greece wants to see the entire surviving work reunited, hopefully in time for the Olympics Games Athens is hosting in August.

“This is a win-win deal,” former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said at a news conference held by Marbles Reunited. “I believe returning the marbles in this Olympic year would be good for Greece, good for Britain and excellent for our Olympic bid.”

Britain is seeking the 2012 Olympics for London and Cook said agreeing to the Greek plan could help create good will.

He compared the marbles’ division between London and Athens to the hypothetical fragmenting of the statue of British military hero Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square.

“It’s as if someone had hacked off Nelson’s head and taken it abroad, and we were left with the stomach and the legs,” he said. “Does anyone imagine we would rest in these circumstances until the statue was restored?”

Peter Chegwyn, Marbles Reunited’s campaign director, said it could take as long as a year to organize the transfer of the sculptures, making it unlikely they could be moved in time for the Athens Olympics. But he urged the museum to commit this year to moving them.

From:
The Independent [3]

Cook backs push to return Elgin marbles
By Mary Dejevsky, Diplomatic Editor
15 January 2004

Moves to return the Elgin marbles to Greece were given a new impetus yesterday with the launch of a high-profile campaign.

The launch of Marbles Reunited, however, was met with indifference from the Government – no ministers attended the launch – and outright hostility from the British Museum, home to the marbles for the past 200 years, which said it had no intention of parting with an integral part of its collection.

Marbles Reunited, which boasts the support of academics, MPs and cultural and sports figures, is calling for the Government to commit itself to the return of the marbles later this year, when the Olympics will be held in Athens for the first time since 1896.

The campaign’s director, Peter Chegwyn, said that two opinion polls commissioned by the group showed that 80 per cent of Britons – and 60 per cent of British Museum visitors – favoured returning the marbles.

However, the questions were couched in such a way as to avoid the words “return” and “restitution”.

Instead, people were asked whether they favoured “reuniting” the marbles with those remaining in Athens. Marbles Reunited argues that Britain should accept a Greek proposal, agreeing to a “loan” of the marbles, which would remain in British ownership. Greece wants to display the marbles, with others from the Parthenon, in a new museum being built at the foot of the Acropolis.

Among leading supporters of Marbles Reunited is Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary, who said that an agreement to return the marbles would be “an excellent launch-pad for Britain’s bid for the 2012 Olympics”. He said the British Museum’s apparent determination to keep the marbles was “Victorian and dated”, and that the poll results showed the “decent instincts” of British people.

In a statement, the British Museum said that only 50 per cent of the Parthenon marbles survived and these were scattered in 10 museums in eight different countries. In other words, the return of the marbles from Britain would not “reunite” the original marble frieze. It said that the Elgin marbles had been legally acquired by the British Museum in 1816, and that the museum’s trustees had a duty to “hold the objects so as to secure maximum public benefit”.

From:
New York Times [4]

Arts Briefing
By LAWRENCE VAN GELDER
Published: January 15, 2004

[…]

LONDON: ELGIN MARBLES CAMPAIGN If Britain agrees to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece, Reuters reported yesterday, the Greek government is willing to allow them to remain British Museum property and to allow British experts to look after them, campaigners said yesterday in London as part of a new effort to return the 2,500-year-old Parthenon sculptures to Athens. But a spokesman for the British Department of Culture, Media and Sport said the position of the British government had not changed and that the decision rested with the British Museum, which has steadfastly refused to return them. The new campaign, citing polls that it says suggest increasing support within Britain for return of the marbles, comes as the Olympic Games are scheduled for Athens in August and a new museum to house the Elgin Marbles is planned for the foot of the Acropolis. The fragments of the frieze that once adorned the Parthenon, on the Acropolis, were taken in the 19th century by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and were sold to the British Museum in 1816.

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