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Return of the Elgin Marbles as a semi-permanent loan?

The British Museum has long suggested that the return of the Elgin Marbles is not possible, because setting aside all other arguments, their governing charter, the British Museum Act, prohibits the deaccessioning of artefacts from their collections.

New proposals from Greece, of a long term loan of the sculptures, would be one possible way around this sticking point.

If this loan was reciprocated by temporary loans from Athens, this cold do a lot to help the British Museum’s finances, as the temporary exhibitions are a major source of additional income to the museum over & above the grant in aid funding that it receives from the government.

From:
Kathimerini (English Edition) [1]

Monday November 11, 2002
Ray of light for Marbles?

After years of refusing to consider returning the Parthenon Marbles to Athens, the British Museum may be considering a radical plan to exchange them for a series of rotating exhibitions of ancient Greek artifacts that could help increase its revenues, Britain’s Independent newspaper reported yesterday.

The news came on the eve of Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos’s visit to London. Today he is to meet with his British counterpart, Tessa Jowell, and the British Museum’s new director, Neil MacGregor. The sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, will be at the top of Venizelos’s agenda. He will also be presenting plans of the new Acropolis Museum, which is to be ready by the 2004 Olympics and has been designed to house the marbles now in London.

MacGregor is understood to be contemplating a deal over the sculptures in an effort to raise funds to help reduce the museum’s 6-million-pound deficit, the Independent said. Entry to the museum and its permanent collections has always been free. But by “swapping” the sculptures for a series of temporary displays of classical treasures, as Greece has offered, the museum would be able to gain a lucrative new source of income.

As its source, the paper quoted Anthony Snodgrass, the retired Laurence professor of Classical archaeology at Cambridge University, who is the chairman of the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Sculptures. He told the Independent that he had discussed this privately with MacGregor. “I suggested to him the idea that the Greeks’ offer of touring exhibitions could be used to raise money through entry fees. He agreed that was a theoretical possibility. With the museum’s present financial situation, they’ve got to look at everything,” Snodgrass said.

MacGregor was unavailable for comment on Saturday, the paper said.

From:
Independent [2]

09 November 2002 22:23 BDT
British Museum considers Elgin Marbles ‘swap’ to reduce £6m debt
By James Morrison, Arts and Media Correspondent
10 November 2002

The British Museum is considering a radical plan to return the Elgin Marbles to Athens in exchange for a series of rotating exhibitions of ancient Greek artefacts.

Neil MacGregor, its new director, is understood to be contemplating a deal over the long-disputed Parthenon sculptures in an effort to raise funds to help reduce the museum’s £6m deficit.

As the museum has never charged for entry and the sculptures are part of its permanent collection, access to the gallery that houses them has always been free. But by “swapping” them for a series of temporary displays of classical treasures, the museum would be able to charge for entry, giving it a lucrative new source of income.

News of the possible change of tack comes on the eve of a meeting between Mr MacGregor and Evangelos Venizelos, the Greek Minister of Culture. Officially, Mr Evangelos is in London to mark his accession to the rotating chairmanship of the European culture ministers. But few doubt that the continuing question over ownership of the marbles will be top of his agenda when he sees Mr MacGregor and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell.

As if to underline its renewed determination to win back the marbles, the Greek government has also organised an official VIP London “launch” of its proposed new Acropolis Museum on Tuesday. Plans for the museum, which is due to open in time for the 2004 Olympics, include a space specifically designed to house the marbles.

Mr MacGregor’s willingness to break with decades of intransigence at the British Museum and contemplate returning the marbles emerged at a private meeting with Anthony Snodgrass, the retired Laurence Professor of Classical Archaeology at Cambridge University.

Professor Snodgrass, the chairman of the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Sculptures, said last night: “I suggested to him the idea that the Greeks’ offer of touring exhibitions could be used to raise money through entry fees. He agreed that was a theoretical possibility. With the museum’s present financial situation, they’ve got to look at everything.”

Mr MacGregor was unavailable for comment last night. A statement issued on behalf of the museum’s trustees said: “The British Museum is a truly universal museum of humanity, accessible to five million visitors every year entirely free of entry charge. Only here can the worldwide significance of the Parthenon sculptures be fully grasped.”