Quote of the Day

Each stone as it fell shook the ground with its ponderous weight, with a deep hollow noise; it seemed like a convulsive groan of the injured spirit of the temple.

Sir Robert Smirke, Architect of the current British Museum

August 2, 2005

Turkish lawers file suit against British Museum

Posted at 8:42 pm in Similar cases

This case has appeared with very little warning (it was not previously a case that got much publicity compared to many other restitution cases) but looks like it will now be getting a lot more publicity. A group of Lawyers in Turkey are filing a lawsuit against the British Museum in the European Court of Human Rights. The reason for the suit is that they want the Halikarnassos Mausoleum to be returned to Turkey by the Museum.

From:
Zaman (Turkey)

Turkish Lawyers File Suit Against British Museum Halikarnassos Mausoleum
By Erkan Acar
Published: Tuesday August 02, 2005

A campaign has been launched for the restitution of Turkey over the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos that was transported from Bodrum in southern Turkey to the British Museum 150 years ago.

A documentary was prepared and 30,000 signatures were collected within the framework of the campaign. A group of lawyers is now preparing to file a lawsuit against the British Museum in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Nearly 30 lawyers from Istanbul and Izmir together with the Bodrum Municipality along with various non-government organizations launched a campaign for the restitution of the Mausoleum transported to London in 1846. Read the rest of this entry »

Changes to the law planned following Feldmann case

Posted at 8:35 pm in Similar cases

Finally statements are emerging from the British Government about the long overdue changes to the law to allow artefacts looted by the Nazis to be de-accessioned from Britain’s museums & returned to their rightful owners. Clearly this planned change in the law is as a direct follow up to the recent court case that ruled that it was not possible to over rule the British Museum Act without a change in the law.
While this is all very positive, I still can not understand the logic behind a law that will treat events that occurred during one specific period in history differently from those that happened during any other – cases end up being judged not on their validity, but on when they occurred. To me (while I can see why the museum’s are pushing for the change to take this form) this is complete nonsense – If two people had items stolen, but for one the items were stolen by someone French & for the other they were stolen by an Italian (assuming all other circumstances were the same) then would one case be more deserving than the other?

From:
BBC News

Last Updated: Friday, 29 July 2005, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
New look at Nazi looted art law
Four Old Master drawings looted by the Nazis could be returned to their original owner by the British Museum under proposed changes to legislation.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is reviewing the law to make such returns legal.

Consultations on the legislation – which will be limited to items taken between 1933 to 1945 – will begin soon.
Read the rest of this entry »

The role of UNESCO in cultural disputes

Posted at 8:22 pm in Similar cases

An article in Cairo Magazine about the current request made by Egypt for the return of various artefacts adds a few points not covered by the previous articles.
Firstly, they look at the history of previous requests by Hawass for the return of artefacts. Secondly, the article looks at the way in which countries can work with UNESCO to resolve disputes & at what powers the organisation actually has in such cases.

From:
Cairo Magazine

Thursday July 28, 2005
Stolen treasures
Zahi Hawass wants the Rosetta Stone back—among other things
By Henry Huttinger

Egypt is once again calling for the return of several celebrated antiquities currently on display in museums across Europe and America, including the Rosetta stone, the famous granite slab that was crucial in deciphering hieroglyphics.

The campaign to recuperate priceless artifacts taken by colonial powers is not new. But in recent weeks Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and the public face of archaeology in Egypt, has grown more strident in his demands in a campaign that coincides with a world tour of Egyptology’s favorite son, King Tutankhamun. Hawass has even threatened to shut down British and Belgian archaeological digs in Egypt if the artifacts are not returned.
Read the rest of this entry »

July 28, 2005

Axum Obelisk re-erection discussed with UNESCO

Posted at 1:17 pm in Similar cases

In many cases concerning repatriation of cultural treasures, the party currently holding the artefacts claims that if they are returned then they will not be looked after properly. Ethiopia is starting to prove that this will no be the case with the Axum Obelisk by consulting extensively with UNESCO about the best way to re-erect the Obelisk in its original location.

From:
Sudan Tribune

Ethiopia to discuss historic obelisk re-erection with UNESCO
Thursday July 28th, 2005 00:16.
ADDIS ABABA, July 27, 2005 (Xinhua) — An Ethiopian delegation left for France on Wednesday to discuss ways of re-erecting the historic Axum obelisk with the United Nations.
The Axum obelisk, weighing 160 tons and standing 24 meters high, is around 1,700 years old and has become a symbol of the Ethiopian people’s identity. In 1937, the invaders of fascist Italy dismantled and took it on the orders of Benito Mussolini. Italy returned the monument to the northern ancient town of Axum in April.
Read the rest of this entry »

Germany wants Russia to return looted artefacts

Posted at 1:05 pm in Similar cases

Russia continues to hold a large amount of artefacts that they took from Germany during the Second World War. Germany also holds a number of Russian artefacts. In all the discussions between the two countries about the return of these items tat were looted relatively recently, there is never much discussion of how items such as Etruscan sculptures ended up in German Museums in the first place.

From:
International Herald Tribune

Germany hankers for its heritage
By Judy Dempsey International Herald Tribune
THURSDAY, JULY 21, 2005

POTSDAM, Germany When Chancellor Gerhard Schröder traveled to Moscow in May for the lavish celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, Germany’s museum directors and curators hoped against hope that Russia would start returning the art plundered by the Red Army after it took Berlin in the spring of 1945.

“Somehow we hoped that once the celebrations in Moscow had taken place, we could reach a deal over getting the art back and that a new era would begin,” said Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. “I suppose we had been investing in that.”
Read the rest of this entry »

The virtual reunification of the Xiangtangshan Cave artefacts

Posted at 12:58 pm in Similar cases

The Xiangtangshan caves in China were once adorned with many sculptures & brightly coloured paintings that were removed in the early twentieth century to museums & private collections.
A new project intends to digitise the displaced sculptures & re-create the original appearance of the caves so that they can be viewed in three dimensions on a computer.
Despite what this article suggests, use of computers for this purpose is not entirely new, & there have already been digital composites made of the Parthenon which unify the sculptures from their varying locations & the building itself. Of course, with the Parthenon it is an easier task than it would be with some monuments, as the original positions of the sculptures are very clearly documented & set out.

From:
Chicago Tribune

U. of C. project putting ancient pieces together
16th-Century temples in China to be seen in computer model
By Tran M. Phung
Tribune staff reporter
Published July 28, 2005

The Xiangtangshan Caves, comprising a dozen 6th-Century Buddhist cave temples south of Beijing, once contained elaborate altars adorned with sculpted limestone figures and bright paintings of gods and monsters.

But when the caves caught the interest of the international art market in the early 1900s, many of the artifacts were removed or badly damaged. Acid rain has eroded what remains.
Read the rest of this entry »

July 25, 2005

Early Day Motion on the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 1:03 pm in Elgin Marbles

Eddie O’Hara MP has tabled an Early Day Motion in parliament about the Parthenon Marbles. EDMs are a way in which members of parliament can both gauge the level of support for proposals. Eddie O’Hara has long been a supporter of the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

From:
Parliamentary Information Management Web Site

Early Day Motion
EDM 665
THE SCULPTURES OF THE PARTHENON

21.07.2005
O’Hara, Edward

That this House is aware that the Parthenon sculptures currently displayed in the Elgin collection in the British Museum are integral architectural components of the Parthenon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Read the rest of this entry »

July 24, 2005

The destruction of Babylon following the Gulf war

Posted at 5:52 pm in Similar cases

The looting from Greece & Egypt has been going on over the course of centuries. Much of it was at the time behaviour that was deemed acceptable by many & it is only in recent years that it has been seen as a major problem. In Iraq however, operating within the context of current values, the destruction & looting of antiquities continues on a daily basis, robbing the country of its history.

It is interesting now, how the very institutions in the west whose collections contain many items looted in the past can be critical of the modern day looting without any pause for reflection on the issues surrounding their own artefacts.

From:
Asia Times

Middle East
Jul 9, 2005
The smash of civilizations
By Chalmers Johnson

Note from Tom Engelhardt, editor of Tomdispatch: The World Monuments Fund has placed Iraq on its list of the Earth’s 100 most endangered sites, the first time that a whole nation has been listed. The destruction began as Baghdad fell. First, there was the looting of the National Museum. That took care of some of the earliest words on clay, including, possibly, cuneiform tablets with missing parts of the epic of Gilgamesh. Soon after, the great libraries and archives of the capital went up in flames and books, letters, government documents, ancient Korans and religious manuscripts stretching back centuries vanished forever. Read the rest of this entry »

July 22, 2005

Israel plans official looting of Palestinian artefacts for “protection”

Posted at 9:33 pm in Similar cases

It appears that as Israel withdraws from Gaza they plan on taking many artefacts with them. The justification for this is that they will be better looked after, a reasoning that is bad enough when post-rationalised by the British Museum, but is even worse when it is planned as a strategy today, with no regard for the wishes of the owners of the artefacts.

From:
Jerusalem Post

Jul. 21, 2005 1:08 | Updated Jul. 21, 2005 15:49
Palestinians: Israel to steal artifacts
Palestinian archaeologists say they fear that when Israel withdraws from Gaza it will also take priceless archeological artifacts. Israeli officials have acknowledged this is a possibility.

A military installation in the northwestern tip of the Gaza Strip surrounds a sixth century Byzantine church, discovered in 1999 by an Israeli archaeologist. The well-preserved 1,461-year-old church, which measures 13 by 25 meters, has three large and colorful mosaics with floral-motifs and geometric shapes. Nearby is a Byzantine hot bath and artificial fishponds.
Read the rest of this entry »

The modernising of Britain’s museums

Posted at 5:17 pm in British Museum

The British Government recently produced a report, that amongst other things highlighted how a large proportion of the collections of many museums in Britain is hidden from the public. The report also suggests that museum’s should be more willing to lend items from their collections to other museums.
This article looks at how some museums are choosing to deal with the overcrowding problems by making their entire collection more accessible.

From:
Haaretz (Israel)

Fri., July 22, 2005 Tamuz 15, 5765
Israel Time: 02:50 (EST+7)
Underground art
By David Rapp

One of Britain’s most important art collections had a rather sweet beginning, even if today’s reductive economic perspective might prompt some observers to see its story as being mainly about money. In the middle of the 19th century, Henry Tate went into the sugar business. A few years later he bought the rights to a revolutionary patent for cutting large chunks of sugar into small cubes. The sugar cubes made Tate a rich man, and he could soon afford to leave Liverpool and settle in London. Among his other investments, Tate cultivated an art collection, mainly of contemporary paintings. Having first displayed the collection in his spacious London home, he proposed toward the end of his life to leave it to the nation. To his surprise, the response he received hinted that the national collection was already full enough without his 65 works.
Read the rest of this entry »

July 21, 2005

30 years of restoration work on Acropolis

Posted at 12:56 pm in Acropolis

Apparently the reason for Tatoulis’s visit to the Acropolis yesterday was to mark the fact the it was 30 years since the current phase of restoration works on the site started.

From:
Kathimerini (English Edition)

Acropolis on course
Major phase of facelift to be ready by next year, along with museum
PETROS GIANNAKOURIS/AP

Workers use a crane to shift a marble fragment on the Acropolis in central Athens as part of a conservation project that Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis said yesterday would be largely completed by the end of next year. The ancient citadel is home to some of the best examples of Classical Greek architecture and the Parthenon, seen in the background, will be the last monument to be renovated as work on it is to continue after 2006. The entire project is likely to be ready by 2020, according to Tatoulis.
Read the rest of this entry »

More on the Acropolis restoration completion dates

Posted at 12:38 pm in Acropolis

Many papers have an AP article today, giving more details of the expected completion of the Acropolis restoration project that Petros Tatoulis spoke about yesterday.

From:
The Guardian

Acropolis Facelifts Near Finish in Greece
Wednesday July 20, 2005 6:46 PM
AP Photo ATH103
By NICHOLAS PAPHITIS
Associated Press Writer

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – For years, tourists to the Acropolis have been frustrated to find ancient monuments shrouded in scaffolding, thanks to a long and painstaking restoration project. Now, an end is in sight.

Greek cultural officials said Wednesday that work on the Parthenon, the Athena Nike temple and the massive Propylaea gate – treasures built in the mid-fifth century B.C. at the height of Athenian glory – should be finished by the end of next year.
Read the rest of this entry »