The British Museum has often claimed that in removing the sculptures from the Parthenon, Elgin acted as a preservationist. They also suggest that the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum are better preserved than those in Athens. Many people dispute these claims however, for a number of reasons, including the following:
- A number of the sculptures were damaged significantly during their removal from the Parthenon.
- One of the ships (the Mentor) carrying the Marbles back to England sank & it was not until some time later that the Marbles could be retrieved from it
- When they first arrived in London they were kept under a Tarpaulin at the back of Elgin’s Park Lane house in London – so were still quite exposed to the English weather including Damp, Frost etc.
- They were kept in London at a time when London was one of the most polluted cities in the world, with many problems with smog & this was at a time before climatically controlled galleries
- The cleaning of the Marbles at the Request of Lord Duveen has been well documented & went against all restoration techniques used at that time & is though to have damaged the surface finish of many of the sculptures.
On a number of occasions I have noticed that while the staff at the Acropolis are very strict in stopping people from touching sculptures etc, at the British Museum there is a much larger potential for damage to artefacts, with adults touching sculptures (Not specifically in the Duveen Gallery – this occurs throughout the museum) & children climbing on artefacts without being spotted by the museum staff. I have some photos showing this that I will try & post later this week.
Now, under the Freedom of Information Act, the Sunday Telegraph have exposed a number of additional instances where the sculptures in the British Museum have been damaged.
Revealed: how rowdy schoolboys knocked a leg off one of the Elgin Marbles
By Chris Hastings, Media Correspondent
The Elgin Marbles have survived an invasion by Turkish hordes and a bombardment by the Venetian Navy – but two rowdy schoolboys were too much for them, secret papers reveal.
The documents, released by the British Museum under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the 2,500-year-old antiquities have had to be repaired after a number of mishaps, acts of theft and vandalism by visitors.
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