Quote of the Day

Athens hasn't seen a thunderbolt like this since Athena last threw one. Will it carry out its assigned task, to summon the Elgins back? For once the cliche works so well it really can't be avoided. If you build it, will they come?

Richard Lacayo, Time magazine

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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Koh-i-Noor compared to Elgin Marbles

Posted at 5:47 pm in Similar cases

Just another of the many items acquired by the British in the last 200 years.

The Telegraph (Calcutta, India)

Unkind cut with Koh-i-Noor clone
– Replica of original diamond to go on display at British museum

London, June 25: In a gesture that will infuriate diehard Indian nationalists, the British are to put a replica of the original uncut Koh-i-Noor, the most famous diamond in the world, on display at the Natural History Museum in London from July 8.

The Koh-i-Noor was taken as booty by the British when Lord Dalhousie annexed Punjab.
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Feldmann case legal details

Posted at 5:43 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Some of the online legal journals have now covered the Feldman case that has been discussed in detail here previously. These new reports do bring to light a few points that were not mentioned in the other reports of the case, such as the fact that there is a possibility of a compromise, whereby the British Museum could acknowledge that due to their legality, it could be claimed that the four paintings were never legally a part of the British Museum’s collection – in which case the de-accessioning rules would not apply.

Incorporated council of law reporting

Attorney General v Trustees of the British Museum
Ch D: Sir Andrew Morritt V-C: 27 May 2005

Under s 3(4) of the British Museum Act 1963 the Trustees of the British Museum were prohibited from returning an object which formed part of the collections of the museum to a previous owner of the object, notwithstanding that because of the circumstances leading up to the acquisition of the object, there was a moral obligation to do so.
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June 22, 2005

The quality of the preserved west frieze

Posted at 1:02 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

In response to the letter in the Times from Paul Chishick, Chris Price points out the high quality of the surface of the newly restored pieces on display in the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

The Times

June 22, 2005
Marbles not lost
From Mr Chris Price

Sir, I disagree with Mr Paul Chishick’s assertion (letter, June 16) that the survival of the Parthenon Marbles is due to storage in the British Museum.

The West Frieze of the Parthenon was long thought to have been ruined by time and pollution. It is now amazingly preserved under cover, right down to the veins on the flanks of the horses.

Those in Bloomsbury had their patina scrubbed white in the 1930s, almost certainly to satisfy the cleanliness fetish of the gallery’s generous donor, Joseph Duveen.

(Vice-chairman, British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles)
Dulwich, London

June 19, 2005

Poor security keeps Iraq museum closed

Posted at 6:18 pm in Similar cases

While many countries are asking for the return of artefacts looted from them in the past, other museums have to use armed guards to deter modern day looters.
The countries that are indirectly responsible for the looting are the same as 100 years ago, but fortunately now, the media & public opinion is paying far more attention to the situation & how it should be resolved than ever happened in the past.

Al Jazeera

Poor security shuts Iraqi museum
Friday 17 June 2005, 10:04 Makka Time, 7:04 GMT

Iraq Museum director Donny George takes security a bit more seriously than most other museum heads would.

Books on his shelves summarise his struggle: Institutional Trauma: Major Change in Museums and its Effect on Staff, Museum Security and Protection and Moving the Mountain: A Guide to Moving Collections.

“I tell the guards, if they shoot one bullet, then you shoot 100. We must show that the place is well-protected.”
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June 18, 2005

Admiral Lord Nelson & the Elgin Marbles

Posted at 10:13 pm in Elgin Marbles

A story has been running in Kathimerini (the Greek language newspaper, not the smaller English language edition) about a letter by Admiral Lord Nelson. The letter was discovered in a museum at the American Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The letter refers to Lord Elgin & also to 28 boxes of ancient sculpture from Athens.
At the end of the article, they also point out that Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is due to meet Tony Blair on 30th June.

The three original Greek language articles that describe the story in more depth were published on 12th June, 14th June & 16th June.


Saturday June 18, 2005
Letter from Nelson about Parthenon Marbles

Kathimerini reader Elli Vassilikioti was visiting the small museum of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, when she caught sight of a framed letter signed Nelson V Bronte. When she examined it more closely, she noticed that it resembled the writing of Lord Nelson, the hero of Abukir and vanquisher of Napoleon’s army. What caught her attention was the reference to Lord Elgin and the 28 boxes of ancient sculpture from Athens, which he took when he captured the Arab French corvette. Read the rest of this entry »

More coverage of the returned Kouros

Posted at 6:48 pm in Similar cases

Following the coverage by the Guardian on the Kouros returned to Samos by James Ede, another article has appeared in the Guardian copies of which have appeared in many regional papers across the US.
Athens News Agency have also covered the story.

The Guardian

Return of statue raises hopes in Greece
Helena Smith in Athens
Friday June 17, 2005
The Guardian

He’s got a broken nose, has been called ugly, and is barely 12cm tall. But that is not stopping Greeks welcomed the return from London of a 6th century BC bronze kouros, seized from the Aegean island of Samos by Nazi looters 60 years ago.

Yesterday, as the statue was unveiled at a ceremony in Athens, Greece’s culture minister Fani Palli-Petrallia said she hoped its repatriation would finally send a message to the British Museum.
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