January 15, 2004

New campaign to Reunite the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 1:56 pm in Elgin Marbles, Marbles Reunited

The high profile London launch of the Marbles Reunited campaign has been covered both in the UK & abroad. Hopefully, it will help to rapidly bring about reunification of all the surviving Parthenon sculptures in Athens.

The Straits Times (Singapore)

Britain urged to return Parthenon marbles

LONDON – Activists launched a fresh bid on Wednesday to persuade the British Museum to return the ancient sculptures known as the Parthenon marbles to Greece, saying even a loan would be a huge step forward.

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

In return, they said, Greece would agree to lend other 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.

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.

The marbles have been an irritant in relations between the two countries for years.

The British Museum’s pieces represent about half of the remaining Parthenon sculptures and Greece wants to see the entire surviving work reunited, hopefully in time for the Olympic Games that Athens is hosting in August.

‘This is a win-win deal,’ said former foreign secretary Robin Cook at a news conference held by Marbles Re united. ‘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 to win the 2012 Olympics for London and Mr Cook said agreeing to the Greek plan could help create goodwill towards London’s bid.

He compared the marbles’ division between London and Athens to the hypothetical fragmenting of the statue of British military hero Lord Nelson, which sits atop a column 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?’ — AP

Irish Examiner

Moves to return Elgin Marbles
By Anita Singh and Jamie Lyons
A NEW campaign to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece was launched yesterday but was met with indifference by the British Government.

Organisers of the Marbles Reunited campaign want to see the 2,500-year-old treasures returned in time for this year’s Olympic Games in Athens.

However, the British Museum, home to the disputed marbles for the past 200 years, said it has no intention of handing them over.

And the government said it did not support the latest attempt to have them returned.

Lord Elgin, British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire between 1803 and 1812, took the marbles from the Parthenon and started a row which has rumbled on ever since. The British Government has repeatedly resisted Greek requests to return them.

Marbles Reunited, an umbrella organisation which includes British and Greek campaigners, has put together a set of proposals which it hopes will provide a breakthrough. It wants the British Museum to hand over the marbles “on loan” in time for the Olympics in August.

An ambitious new museum is under construction at the foot of the Acropolis to house the treasures. Under the plans, the British Museum will retain ownership of the marbles. It will also be responsible for their conservation the Greeks have been accused of failing to protect their half of the stones from pollution.

The Guardian

New shots in Marbles battle
John Ezard, and Helena Smith in Athens
Thursday January 15, 2004
The Guardian

A voice on the video says, seemingly in a street interview: “Imagine the Mona Lisa cut in two – half in Paris, half in Moscow.” Another brings the point nearer home: “Imagine Nelson’s column empty, because it had been moved to Berlin.”

None quite accuses Britain of making war on Greece. But the message is clear. An increasing number of Britons believe that it is wrong to keep the Parthenon marbles in the British Museum in London.

The video, sent yesterday to 1,000 parliamentarians, opinion formers and television companies, begins a new, slicker phase in the longstanding campaign to return the Parthenon stones, formerly known as the Elgin marbles, to Athens.

The campaign has been relaunched by an umbrella group, Marbles Reunited.

The video was made by the public relations agency Burson Marsteller, which is said to have given the campaign help but not money. Professor Anthony Snodgrass, a leading figure in the movement, said its spending so far was no more than “very low five figures”.

The Greek minister of culture, Evangelos Venizelos, said in Athens: “It seems that beyond the official position in Britain there is a lot of questioning and internal debate.”

The stones were acquired by Lord Elgin in the early 1800s when Turkish occupiers were using the Parthenon as a gunpowder store.

The former foreign secretary Robin Cook said there was “massive public backing” for their restitution to Greece. Marbles Reunited is pressing the government to mark the current Olympic year by announcing that it will support the stones being “offered for display” at a new museum being built near the Acropolis in Athens.

An ICM poll commissioned by the campaign found a big majority – 77% – in favour of at least a prolonged exhibition of the marbles in Greece, but it avoided such words as “restitution” and “give back”.

When the public is reminded of the Greek government’s offer to accept the British Museum’s continued legal ownership of the treasures, the figure rises to 81%.

Mr Venizelos said the poll would reinvigorate his government’s determination to retrieve the marbles in time for the Olympics.

“When you take into account that only a very small number, around 16%, go to the British Museum especially to view the Parthenon marbles, it’s hard not to see that Athens is their natural place,” he said.

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