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Is Britain a museum for the world?

Anthony Barnett writes about how the British should be responding to Greece’s building of the New Acropolis Museum.

Our Kingdom [1]

Britain: museum for the world?
Posted on 28 July 07, 12:43 pm by ourkingdom

Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Back from Greece where I attended a wonderful ‘Symi seminar’ run by George Papandreou, leader of PASOK, the socialist opposition party hoping to win the elections due within the year. On the way back I was privileged to meet Professor Pandermalis, the head of the New Acropolis Museum now nearing completion – and then to be given a hard-hat tour of the building. It is going to be magnificent. My own photos will follow, this image from the plans gives just a taste of its quality and daring. On the top, built to the scale of the Parthenon itself, which can been seen through the glass, are the walls on which the original panels and sculptures of the Parthenon’s frieze will be hung. Most of them, the so-called ‘Elgin Marbles‘ are in the British Museum. It will be impossible to keep them there in the face of world opinion after the Athens museum opens.

What should the British do? Current plans are “nothing“. But claims that the Marbles are better curated and shown in London will collapse. And whatever the complications of the historical argument the fact is that they were stolen from the Greeks. If Brown and his advisors are capable of imagination, they will offer to loan the Marbles back to Greece on condition that they can co-curate them in Athens while the Greeks in turn send continuous exhibitions of their collections to London. In this way the BM could help to show its holdings to the world and become, yes, a global Museum. There is only a little time left for it to show some initiative.