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New Elgin Marbles reunification campaign launches in London

More coverage of the launch of the Marbles Reunited campaign in London today. One of the main points of this campaign is that it unites the various existing organisations in the UK fighting for the return of the marbles under one common name.

BBC News [1]

Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 January, 2004, 09:06 GMT
Elgin marbles campaign launches

A campaign to return the Elgin marbles to Greece is launched on Wednesday.

Run by umbrella organisation Marbles Reunited, it is based on research suggesting three out of every four British people want them returned.

The group wants them put alongside the other surviving Parthenon sculptures in a museum being specially built for the start of the Athens Olympics.

British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, took them from the Greek capital’s Parthenon in 1801.

World context

The seventh Earl of Elgin, Thomas Bruce, then sold the marbles to the British Museum in 1816.

The British Government has repeatedly refused Greek Government requests to return them.

And the British Museum insists the marbles, which depict gods, men and monsters, are seen more in an international context in London than they would be in Athens.

Director Neil MacGregor said: “The British Museum is the best possible place for the Parthenon sculptures to be on display.

“The Parthenon marbles have been central to the museum’s collections, and to its purpose, for almost 200 years,” he added.

“The British Museum is a truly universal museum of humanity, accessible to five million visitors from around the world every year entirely free of entry charge.

“Only here can the worldwide significance of the sculptures be fully grasped.”


But former British foreign secretary Robin Cook, actress Vanessa Redgrave and several Olympic athletes support the campaign for the marbles’ return.

Mr Cook has called the removal of the marbles a “dishonourable act of vandalism” but says the history of their move to Britain is not the key issue.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The crucial question is that today Greece is not under the Ottoman Empire, it is not the war zone from which Lord Elgin was preserving the marbles – and let’s assume he was right in doing it.

“The issue is where they should be now. There is really no dispute they belong in Athens.”

Museum bonus

The Parthenon marbles needed to be reunited and that could only happen by returning those in London to Greece, he argued.

Mr Cook suggested the British Museum could have an annex in Athens and in return would be able to show more Greek antiquities in Britain.

And the marbles would be well-protected in the new museum being built in Athens.

Asked why he had not backed their return when he was foreign secretary, Mr Cook said he had always held the same view but been unable to express them publicly when the government took a different line.

The current Lord Elgin said it was “completely untrue” to suggest his ancestor had plundered the Parthenon.

Instead, he had taken the marbles with the full authority of the Ottoman Empire, their then owners.

“It was a very carefully arranged expedition and the preservation and conservation was one of the finest things of its kind at the time,” he said.

Athens might no longer be a war zone but atmospheric pollution had already caused serious damage to many of the marbles remaining there, he added.

iC Berkshire [2]

Campaign to reunite Elgin marbles
Jan 14 2004

A major new campaign to return the Elgin marbles to Greece is being launched in London.

Various groups which have been urging Britain to hand back the disputed relics have come together under the new umbrella organisation, Marbles Reunited.

The campaign aims to see the collection of sculptures, which has been housed in the British Museum for the last 200 years, returned to Athens.

The group wants to see the collection installed alongside the other surviving Parthenon sculptures in a purpose-built museum under construction in the Greek capital.

Marbles Reunited was unveiling a new plan to settle the issue at the campaign launch at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in central London.

The Greeks want the marbles to be reunited with other surviving sculptures for the start of the Athens Olympics.

Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos recently renewed a plea for Britain to loan Greece the collection for the August 13-29 Games.

He said the “vast majority” of Britons supported the Greek plan to return the marbles for display in Athens during the Olympics.

The Greeks have promised that other significant treasures will be brought from Greece for exhibition in Britain for the first time. Talks about the future of the marbles are expected to take place over the next few weeks.

Lord Elgin brought the sculptures to the UK from Athens when he was British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and sold them to the British Museum in the early 1800s. They have remained in London ever since.

Reuters [3]

New bid to return Elgin Marbles
Wed 14 January, 2004 02:24
By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) – Activists will launch a new campaign today to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece, hoping to succeed where decades of unremitting and often impassioned pressure have failed.

The campaign, run by new pressure group Marbles Reunited and co-ordinated by public relations firm Burson Marsteller, is based on research showing that some three quarters of the public believe the marbles should be handed back.

“This is a new campaign. Wednesday is an attempt to move the agenda forward,” a spokesman for the firm told Reuters.

The immediate aim is to get the marble frieze, removed from the Parthenon in Athens in 1803 by Thomas Bruce, Earl of Elgin and sold to the British Museum in 1816, returned on loan to Greece in time for the Olympic Games in August.

“The terms of the loan are unspecified, but it is around the Olympics,” the Burson Marsteller spokesman said, declining to give any further details before the campaign’s official launch.

The bid to return the marbles, initially sparked by a passionate appeal from Greek actress-turned culture minister Melina Mercouri in 1982, has gathered support over the years from people as varied as former foreign secretary Robin Cook and actress Vanessa Redgrave.

It has also recently attracted the support of several Olympic athletes.

But the Marbles Reunited campaign — an umbrella group combining older pressure groups — faces an uphill struggle.

The government has over the years repeatedly refused Greek government requests to hand back the marbles, which represent about half of the surviving original frieze. The other half remained in Athens.

The British Museum also insists they are seen more in an international context in London than they would be in Athens — where a special museum is being built to house them.

“The British Museum is the best possible place for the Parthenon sculptures to be on display,” museum director Neil MacGregor said.

“The Parthenon Marbles have been central to the Museum’s collections, and to its purpose, for almost 200 years. Only here can the worldwide significance of the sculptures be fully grasped,” he added.

A spokeswoman for the museum told Reuters she did not anticipate a change in the position, regardless of what happens on Wednesday.