Quote of the Day

The building of the new Acropolis Museum finally gives [Greeks] the physical authority to buttress an argument that has too often relied on shrill sentimentalism and unsubtle jingoism.

Peter Aspden, Financial Times newspaper

July 12, 2005

More Acropolis Museum delays

Posted at 6:44 pm in New Acropolis Museum

The New Acropolis Museum project has been plagued by delays caused by a wide range of reasons. The first design for the site was produced fifteen years ago, yet it is only now getting above foundation level.
Issues over the unpaid National Insurance contributions by the contractor could create a further delay, although the Greek government is hoping to minimise the problem.


Construction cranes overlook the site of the Acropolis Museum, which was meant to be ready for the 2004 Athens Olympics. Authorities revealed yesterday that the project has run into another problem as the construction company, ALTE, cannot take advantage of government funding since its tax and social security obligations are not in order. The government has promised the museum will be ready by 2007 at a cost of 129 million euros.

July 11, 2005

Who should be able to see artefacts

Posted at 6:27 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The New Statesman has an interesting article, based on the fact that the Ethiopian Tabots in the British Museum are unable to be viewed even by the director of the Museum. Is this the best way for them to be treated? If they have to be treated in this way then should they be in the Museum in the first place? What is the role of the museum in dealing with cultural artefacts that have strong significance to specific groups?

The New Statesman

The censoring of our museums
Tiffany Jenkins
Monday 11th July 2005
Certain artefacts in the British Museum are deemed to have such religious significance that the director himself cannot examine them, and Australian male totems are barred from female eyes at the Hancock Museum in Newcastle. Faith sensitivity is endangering free access to our collections, argues Tiffany Jenkins
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July 7, 2005

What are the Axum Obelisks?

Posted at 6:35 pm in Similar cases

With cases of cultural property, the case itself often becomes what defines people’s knowledge of the property. They don’t know about the artefacts, but they know about the disputes surrounding them. This is certainly true of the Elgin Marbles, & many people could not tell you exactly where they originated from, or even what they look like.
Islam Online has an article that helps to explain who created the Axum Obelisks & why they are important in their own right.
Maybe one day long after the Elgin Marbles are returned, people will once again be able to study them for what they are, rather than studying why they are where they are.

Islam Online

Axum: The Ancient Civilization of Ethiopia
By Kate Prendergast
July 07, 2005

Recent celebrations in Ethiopia no doubt aroused the envy of the Greeks, who have been campaigning fruitlessly for years to convince the British government to return the Elgin marbles. The altogether luckier Ethiopians have, in contrast, finally persuaded the Italians to return a 1,700-year-old stone obelisk looted by Mussolini nearly 70 years ago during the fascist occupation of Ethiopia (BBC News). The obelisk is the finest of more than 100 stone monoliths which stood in Aksum (Axum), capital city of the ancient Aksumite kingdom that flourished in northern Ethiopia between 100-600 CE and which, according to legend, was where Menelik I, son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, brought the Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem. As yet, however, few know much about this ancient African civilization, and its role in the development of trade, arts, and religion in the centuries that also witnessed the spread of the Roman Empire, the birth of Christianity, and the rise of Islam (Munro-Hay).
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July 6, 2005

Korea asks France for copies of looted books

Posted at 12:57 pm in Similar cases

The Bibliothèque nationale has a large number ancient books that were taken from the Korean royal archives in 1866. For a long time they were mis-filed within the library & no one knew of their existence.
Since their rediscovery, Korea has repeatedly asked these books to be returned, but despite initial positive responses they still do not seem any closer to being returned.
Now Korea has asked for high quality digital prints of all the books to allow them to study them, but have not yet received a response from the French on this. This request however does not affect their request for the restitution of the books, which still stands.

The Korea Times

Korea Asks France for Photocopy of Looted Books
By Bae Keun-min
Staff Reporter

The South Korean government has asked France for digital copies of all ancient Korean books that the European nation took from a royal archive in the 19th century.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said yesterday that it requested high-definition digital copies of 297 books for research purposes last month at the request of the local academia.
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The friendliest place for retrieving stolen art

Posted at 11:35 am in Similar cases

As illustrated by the Feldmann case, if you artworks are stolen & end up in the British Museum, you will have a huge difficulty in getting them returned. Across the Atlantic however the laws are a lot more positive for those trying to reclaim artworks.
Now, the lawsuits from within the US are extending to target institutions abroad that they feel are holding stolen artefacts.

Christian Science Monitor

Arts & Entertainment > Art
from the July 05, 2005 edition
US lawsuits pursue lost art
Is that a Nazi-plundered masterpiece in your museum? It may not be there for long.
By Randy Dotinga | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

SAN DIEGO – Growing up as a young boy in Germany, Claude Cassirer had a front seat to the sophisticated culture of prewar Berlin. He’d sit in his grandmother’s parlor, soaking in the conversation, the fine furniture and a striking Pissarro painting of rainy-day Paris, a reminder of his family’s close ties to impressionist painters.

“Before Hitler, we led a very pleasant life,” recalls Mr. Cassirer, a retired photographer who lives near San Diego. “Then all of a sudden my father didn’t have the options he had, and my grandparents were threatened with concentration camps.”
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July 5, 2005

Trafficking of Greek antiquities

Posted at 9:31 pm in Similar cases

Looting & trafficking of antiquities will always be a problem, as long as there are people who are willing to pay for them. The more antiquities a country has, the more effort it takes to prevent their illegal removal.


Wednesday June 29, 2005
Greek treasures easy prey for antiquities traffickers
Authorities note that shipwrecks are especially hard to protect
Authorities in 2005 have so far retrieved 253 ancient objects, two icons and 12 extremely valuable ecclesiastical items.
By Yiannis Souliotis – Kathimerini

The net profits that come from the international trade in antiquities are akin to those of human and narcotics trafficking.

Organized crime networks legalize revenues from illegal activities by purchasing antiquities, while professional dealers in illegal antiquities arm themselves with cutting-edge technology to locate artifacts buried deep in the ground. On the Internet, meanwhile, an endless number of sites hold non-stop “auctions” of items that can date as far back as the sixth century BC.
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July 2, 2005

Burma’s destruction of the temples of Pagan

Posted at 10:39 pm in Similar cases

In many cases a bad restoration or reconstruction can be far more damaging to an archaeological site than just doing nothing & leaving the site to slowly deteriorate. Not only are items damaged, but often any information linking them to the other artefacts is lost as they are re-assembled incorrectly.
Deliberate vandalism, such as the removal of the sculptures from the Parthenon under the instructions of Lord Elgin is worse – it is like bad restoration, but without good intentions.
Earlier restorations of the Acropolis by Balanos in the 1920s have caused huge amounts of damage to the buildings on the site. Iron clamps were used to join pieces of stone, but without the lead covering that had been used in ancient times. Over time water reached the iron & rusted it causing it to expand breaking the stonework as it did so. The problem was further exacerbated by incomplete records of the cataloguing, that meant that it has taken a long time to actually find all of the replaced clamps.
The current CCAM restoration of the Acropolis has been subject to stringent guidelines & is trying to correct many of the errors made by Balanos.
Burma is not so lucky, as the military government there is trying to rebuild ancient sites, using concrete, brick & bathroom tiles.

BBC News

Last Updated: Saturday, 4 June, 2005, 01:19 GMT 02:19 UK
Burma rebuilding risks Pagan jewel
By Andrew Harding
BBC News, Burma

The sunsets are still spectacular – a golden glow brushing the curves of 2,000 ancient temples and pagodas clustered on the edge of the Irrawaddy River in central Burma.

But today some of the world’s leading experts have accused Burma’s military regime of waging “archaeological blitzkrieg” against the legendary Buddhist treasures of Pagan.
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Should unprovenanced antiquities be studied?

Posted at 10:17 pm in Similar cases

With ancient artefacts, the provenance of them is what defines them & separates them from fakes. If you don’t know the complete story of the items modern history, from its discovery to how it came to be where it is now, then how can you guarantee the authenticity of it?
University College London is launching an investigation into a collection 0f 650 bowls from an Oslo collector. Some collectors & archaeologists believe that they should investigate & study anything that is of significance within their field. Many others argue that studying unprovenanced work merely encourages the continued looting & illegal sale of artefacts.

The Art Newspaper

Unprovenanced antiquities: to study or not to study?
University College London has set up an inquiry to examine the origin of “looted” bowls on loan from a Norwegian collector
By Martin Bailey

From News:
LONDON. University College London (UCL) has set up an inquiry into the provenance of 650 incantation bowls on loan from Oslo collector Martin Schøyen, following claims that they were looted in Iraq. The bowls, mainly dating from 400-700 AD, were used by Mesopotamian Jews to place on doorways as a form of spiritual protection. Most are in Aramaic, with a smaller number in Mandiac and Syriac.

The Art Newspaper has established that the incantation bowls were borrowed from Mr Schøyen in 1996 by Professor Mark Geller of UCL’s Institute of Jewish Studies. It appears to have been a relatively informal arrangement with Mr Schøyen, probably the world’s greatest private collector of manuscripts and texts. Professor Geller said that “it happened spontaneously—the bowls were in London and it seemed a good idea to have them catalogued”.
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German art in Russia

Posted at 10:00 pm in Similar cases

Germany has calculated that Russia has 250,000 looted items. The Museums world is constantly critical of Russia for this fact, but the reality is that most of these museums that criticise Russia’s stance are themselves holding large numbers of items on which there are claims for restitution. Russia has always suggested that they have a legitimate right to many of these items, as revenge for Russian items destroyed or looted by the Germans. The whole issue has similarities to many restitution cases, with the only exceptional aspects being the recentness of it (most major artefacts in European museums against which there are restitution claims were acquired before WWII) & the sheer number of artefacts involved.

From: RIA Novosti (Russian News & Information Agency)

Opinion & analysis
The art of revenge
30 June 205
MOSCOW. (Anatoly Korolev, for RIA Novosti.)

The recent celebration of the end of World War II noticeably soured cultural relations between Russia and Germany, as the latter used the occasion to issue a list of lost art works. Germany says that Russia holds no less than 250,000 items defined as displaced cultural treasures.

Russia has also been criticized at international conferences such as “Spoils of War. World War II and Its Aftermath” held in New York in January 1995. This conference was probably the most scandalous of all, and its main motif was that the Russian mentality contradicts European and American museum ethics.
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June 27, 2005

The cleaning of the west frieze

Posted at 5:18 pm in Elgin Marbles

The BBC has created a short picture story on the cleaning of the west frieze of the Parthenon.

You can see the article here:
BBC News (I won’t copy the text out, as it is only relevant with the pictures it accompanies)

Parliamentary question on reform of British Museum Act

Posted at 4:52 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

After the Feldmann case highlighted the need for reform of the British Museum Act, Andrew Dismore MP, a long time supporter of the return of the Parthenon Marbles has asked DCMS about when the act will be reformed.


Written Answers to Questions
Tuesday 14 June 2005
British Museum Act
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will bring forward amendments to the British Museum Act 1963 following the judgment of the High Court in the case of works of art formerly owned by Arthur Feldman and now in the British Museum; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Lammy [Minister for Culture in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport]: We are carefully considering the recent recommendation of the Spoliation Advisory Panel that legislation should be introduced to permit the return of items where possession was lost during the Nazi era. The Vice Chancellor’s judgment of 27 May provides clarity in this important area and will contribute to our consideration of the Panel’s recommendation.

June 26, 2005

Italian Getty case is “not just about the Getty”

Posted at 5:54 pm in Similar cases

Following on from the indictment of Marion True by the Italian courts last month, the Italians want to highlight that the Getty is far from the only museum that they believe has received artefacts from illegal digs. In this article, they also mention that the investigations cover several Etruscan items that are now in the British Museum.

The Sunday Times

June 26, 2005
Italy goes after the Getty for ‘receiving’ art
John Follain, Rome
THE curator of antiquities at California’s respected J Paul Getty Museum will go on trial in Italy next month accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods in a landmark case closely watched by the art world.

Marion True, 56, who has worked since 1982 for the Getty, one of the world’s richest collections, is also accused by Rome prosecutors of illicit receipt of archeological items.

The trial involves some 40 artefacts and follows a nine-year inquiry by Italy’s art squad, a unit of the carabinieri — the paramilitary police.
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