Quote of the Day

Greece will fight for the return from foreign museums and collectors of every ancient Greek object for which we have evidence that it is a product of illegal digging, smuggling or illegal trade.

Giorgos Voulgarakis, Former Hellenic Republic Minister of Culture

April 19, 2005

Joy in Ethiopia as obelisk is returned

Posted at 1:21 pm in Similar cases

The Axum Obelisk is finally back in Ethiopia


Joy as obelisk returns to Ethiopia

Tuesday, April 19, 2005 Posted: 7:50 AM EDT (1150 GMT)

AXUM, Ethiopia (Reuters)
Thousands of Ethiopians cheered and cried joyously as Italy on Tuesday returned the first piece of the Axum obelisk, an ancient national treasure Rome’s fascist regime plundered 68 years ago.

Cheers erupted as the massive cargo jet carrying the first piece of the funerary monument broke through the early-morning mist of the shrouded sky of Axum, a northern city that was the center of ancient Ethiopia’s civilization.
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April 14, 2005

Chinese fund for the return of national treasures

Posted at 3:35 pm in Similar cases

Following on from the previous article by China Radio International here is some more information about Zhang Yongnian’s attempts to get Chinese cultural treasures returned.

China Radio International

Fund to Get National Treasures Back
2005-4-13 14:14:48

China has lost more than one million cultural relics through warfare over the past century or so. From the Opium War in 1840 to the founding of the new China in 1949, countless treasures have been stolen.

China has lost more than one million cultural relics through warfare over the past century or so.

From the Opium War in 1840 to the founding of the new China in 1949, countless treasures have been stolen.

Most of the items are preserved in foreign museums.
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April 10, 2005

Ethiopians celebrate return of 160 tonne souvenir

Posted at 12:29 am in Similar cases

Another article on the return of the Axum Obelisk.
It will be interesting to see what implications this has on other cases from that period.

The Scotsman

Ethiopians celebrate return of 160-ton ‘souvenir’ from Italy


ABEBE Alemyehu was 12 when he watched Benito Mussolini’s soldiers storm into the Ethiopian town of Axum to steal its ancient obelisk.

Now the 81-year-old is preparing to go out on the streets near his family compound once again, as a new generation of Italians bring the sacred monument back.

Later this month, Italy is due to return the first part of the 24m high 160-ton tower of granite, almost 70 years after its soldiers seized it during fascist Italy’s brief occupation of Ethiopia in the build-up to the Second World War.
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April 8, 2005

Date set for return of Axum Obelisk

Posted at 11:08 am in Similar cases

After extensive delays the Axum Obelisk is finally going to be returned to Ethiopia by Italy next Monday. Albeit a long time after the 1947 agreement was signed where Italy agreed to return all property looted from Ethiopia by Mussolini.


Ethiopia to get obelisk back
04/04/2005 21:30 – (SA)
Addis Ababa – Italy will return to Ethiopia the first piece of the ancient Axum obelisk on April 11, a government spokesman said Monday, ending a dispute over the religious monument taken to Rome 70 years ago.

The top piece of the 1 700-year-old obelisk will leave Rome by cargo plane on April 10 and be flown directly to Axum, Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesperson Solomon Abebe said.
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April 7, 2005

Advert featuring the acropolis gets ok

Posted at 12:07 pm in Acropolis

For most Greeks the Acropolis is seen as not just a national treasure in the way that we might perceive Stonehenge, but more like a religious monument who’s dignity is to be protected.


Acropolis advert gets green light

After four weeks of agonizing over the rights and wrongs of letting the Acropolis feature in a corporate advertising campaign, Greece’s top board of antiquities has OK’d the drive, charging a multinational electronics giant 7,043 euros for the service.

In a meeting late on Tuesday, the Culture Ministry’s Central Archaeological Council (KAS) gave the green light to the Greek branch of Philips to use images of the ancient citadel in print and TV adverts to be launched globally later this year.

The company provided equipment for the new lighting scheme adopted for the Acropolis ahead of the Olympics and has offered to do the same again, free of charge, for a monument of the ministry’s choice. This swayed several KAS members. Others, such as professor of architecture Haralambos Bouras, argued that Philips “is not a barbarous firm.”

But the director of the Athens Byzantine Museum, Dimitrios Constantios, voted against the campaign, claiming a favorable decision “will associate this major monument with advertising.”

KAS first discussed the controversial matter last month but postponed a ruling until, among others, ministry archaeologists could draw up a list of which monuments should not be used for such purposes. No mention was made of this list on Tuesday.

April 3, 2005

Progress on the construction of the New Acropolis Museum

Posted at 8:20 pm in New Acropolis Museum

Despite earlier delays, construction on the site of the New Acropolis Museum is now progressing once more:


A bulldozer yesterday…

A bulldozer yesterday demolished buildings expropriated by the state on the central Athens plot destined to host the new Acropolis Museum. The museum — where Greece hopes to eventually exhibit the Elgin Collection of sculptures from the Parthenon, should the British Museum ever agree to return the fifth-century-BC works — is scheduled for completion by the end of next year, according to the latest government estimates. Initially, the building, in the Makriyianni area at the foot of the Acropolis, was supposed to have been ready in time for the August 2004 Olympic Games. However, it is still at the stage of pouring the foundations.

April 1, 2005

The return of Chinese cultural relics

Posted at 12:59 pm in Similar cases

Zhang Yongnian appear to be continuing his quest to buy back China’s looted artworks – while he might be able to acquire more of the artworks using this method (at a cost) it is generally not acceptable ethically amongst Museum Professionals to deal with the situation in this way. However, if he wants to deal with the problem in this way & the Chinese government is happy with this approach then there is nothing in principle to stop them doing it. However, so far I have heard a lot of talk about it, but not seen much sign of artworks actually being returned as a result.

China Radio International

The Return Home of Chinese Cultural Relics
2005-3-30 14:08:46
Rescuing lost cultural relics from overseas has become a hot topic in recent times. Apart from the practicalities of securing the return of such artifacts, it’s also become time to discuss what this cultural reunification means to China, and to the world. Our reporter Shanshan will talk to some leading figures in the field of cultural relics and find out what progress is being made.
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March 26, 2005

New research claims British ripped up Ethiopian manuscripts

Posted at 9:09 pm in Similar cases

Yet again, the story of what actually happened contradicts the line of the British Museum & Others in the UK that we [were/are] protecting artefacts that would have been [damaged/destroyed] had they been left in their original location.


The British Ripped Up Ethiopian Manuscripts, Claims New Research

Addis Tribune (Addis Ababa)

March 25, 2005
Posted to the web March 25, 2005

WHAT: The unveiling of new research showing how British collectors ruined and defiled a number of holy manuscripts stolen from Ethiopia. Also the display of two pages ripped out of an Ethiopian book by invading British soldiers that have just been returned to Ethiopia Read the rest of this entry »

March 24, 2005

British Library to return Looted Italian Manuscript

Posted at 11:13 am in Similar cases

Following the article in the Art Newspaper yesterday, most of the national papers in the UK picked up on this story today. However only the Guardian mentions the fact that a change in the law to allow the return, would potentially only cover items looted during the Nazi era & not other objects of disputed ownership.
None of the sources so far though have explained why this approach would be a reasonable or logical way to approach the problem. Surely, all other things being equal, an item looted by the Nazis & another item looted by others should have an equally strong case for restitution? Furthermore it seems particularly odd that the limitation period would also have a later limit (between the end of the war to… the present day presumably) in addition to the early limit for the period prior to the war.

The Guardian

Looted ancient book must be sent back to Italy

12th century missal found its way from a cathedral to the British Library. Now its return may mean a law change

Charlotte Higgins, arts correspondent
Thursday March 24, 2005
The Guardian

Wartime loot may summon up images of art treasures plundered by the Nazis from persecuted Jews, rather than a rare book acquired by the British Library from a respectable English army captain.

But now a 12th-century missal which has formed part of the library’s collection since 1947, must be returned to its home city of Benevento, in southern Italy, according to a ruling. Read the rest of this entry »

March 23, 2005

British Library set to return Benevento Missal

Posted at 6:49 pm in Similar cases

This story only highlights the problems with the laws governing so many museums & galleries in Britain that the Government needs to take action to resolve.

The Art Newspaper

British Library set to return Benevento Missal

By Martin Bailey

The Benevento Missal is to be returned to Italy, as a result of a claim submitted following an investigation by The Art Newspaper. On 23 March the UK’s Spoliation Advisory Panel recommended that the British Library should restitute the 12th century manuscript to Benevento cathedral.

This will be the first time that a UK national institution has returned an artwork or manuscript looted during the Nazi era. A change in the law will be required, since the British Library is legally barred from deaccessioning the manuscript. Read the rest of this entry »

Canadian teen jailed for taking rock from Parthenon

Posted at 6:36 pm in Acropolis

Not really that relevant, except inasmuch as it highlights how seriously Greece treats the protection of its antiquities nowadays

Victoria Times Colonist

Spring break in a Greek jail
Picking up a rock at Parthenon puts Duncan teen on wrong side of law

It’s unlikely Madelaine Gierc’s classmates will be able to top her stories about what she did during spring break.

The 16-year-old Grade 11 student from Duncan spent two nights in Athens police cells this week after being arrested for allegedly removing a piece of marble from the 2,500-year-old Parthenon, the marble temple perched on the Acropolis overlooking Athens. Read the rest of this entry »

March 16, 2005

Historic international digitisation project to reunite world’s oldest bible

Posted at 8:34 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The British Library has announced that the world’s oldest bible, the Codex Sinaiticus, is going to be digitised. The project involves an unprecedented level of co-operation between the four institutions that hold parts of the document. This sort of co-operation is what museums should be about – they are (at least within the UK) funded & perceived largely as research institutions, yet they choose to run themselves in a way that is entirely at odd with the way an academic institution would be run, where they try and keep as much information to themselves as possible, rather than freely sharing it.

British Library

World’s oldest Bible goes global: Historic international digitisation project announced

11 March 2005 :: Posted by Catriona Finlayson

An ambitious international project to reinterpret the oldest Bible in the world, the Codex Sinaiticus, and make it accessible to a global audience using innovative digital technology and drawing on the expertise of leading biblical scholars is officially launched today.

A team of experts from the UK, Europe, Egypt, Russia and the US have joined together to reunite this iconic treasure in virtual form. This unprecedented collaborative approach to achieve reunification involves all four of the institutions at which parts of the manuscript are held : St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai; the British Library, the University of Leipzig, Germany; and the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg.
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