Quote of the Day

There is nothing to equal it in the architecture of the entire world and all the ages; the plastic modulation of the Parthenon is flawless, ruthless. Its austerity goes beyond what we are accustomed to, and the normal potential of man.

Le Corbusier, architect; Vers une Architecture

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

March 12, 2005

Just how open are UK museums?

Posted at 1:00 pm in Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

The Freedom Of Information act which came into force at the beginning of this year could potentially have positive implications for cases of contested ownership of cultural treasures in British Museums. It gives the public a legal right to request certain information from the Museums that they would previously have been able to withheld or even deny the existence of.
The Art Newspaper has used the new act to try & obtain information from a number of UK museums, with varying degrees of success.

The Art Newspaper

Just how open are UK museums?
The Art Newspaper submitted requests to four institutions under new legislation which gives the public much greater access to government documentation
By Martin Bailey

london. When the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act came into force on 1 January, The Art Newspaper submitted requests to four major UK museums and galleries. We are now able to publish the responses from the National Gallery, the Tate, the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)—giving the first indication of whether the law is ushering in a new era of openness.

Our requests focussed on different issues at each of the four institutions, putting the spotlight on recent stories. We set out to choose issues on which we expected considerable data to be released, but where we knew there would also be sensitive material in the files which was was likely to be deemed “exempt” under the FOI Act and withheld. Our aim was to test the system and see where the parameters lie on the release of information.
Read the rest of this entry »

March 1, 2005

Edinburgh University refuses to return Ethiopian artefacts

Posted at 2:55 pm in Similar cases

While Ethiopia appears to be having some success in the return of the Axum Obelisk from Italy, it appears that other requests they have made have had less promising results.

The Herald (Glasgow)

University refuses to return Ethiopian artefacts
March 01 2005
Campaigners fighting for the repatriation of scores of treasures looted by British soldiers from Ethiopia more than a century ago have been dealt a blow by academics in Scotland.
Edinburgh University, despite a direct plea from the government in Addis Ababa, has refused to hand over four manuscripts with likely links to the troops’ invasion.
The Association for the Return of the Magdala Ethiopian Treasures (Afromet), which has involved the Queen in its quest for plundered artefacts and documents, said it would continue to fight for the return of the documents “taken violently as war booty”.
The university court, its governing body, yesterday supported a unanimous decision by a special advisory panel set up to examine the possible repatriation of the manuscripts.
In its report, the panel concluded that Afromet, as an international secular organisation independent of the Ethiopian government and church, had no mandate to represent the Ethiopian people and was not the original owner of the documents in question.
Read the rest of this entry »

February 26, 2005

Lecture in Washington on Elgin Marbles

Posted at 9:28 pm in Elgin Marbles

Anthony Snodgrass, Professor Emeritus of Classical Archaeology at the University of Cambridge & chairman of the BCRPM is to give a lecture in Washington on the Elgin Marbles, entitled “The Parthenon Divided”.

Library of Congress News

Anthony Snodgrass To Discuss the Parthenon (“Elgin”) Marbles on March 23
Title of His Talk Is “The Parthenon Divided”

Anthony Snodgrass, chairman of the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles and Laurence Professor Emeritus of Classical Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, will present a lecture titled “The Parthenon Divided” at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 23, in the Montpelier Room, sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

Snodgrass has given lectures throughout Europe and the United States regarding the case both for and against the restitution of the Parthenon Marbles to the Republic of Greece.
Read the rest of this entry »

Should stolen treasures be returned to Turkey?

Posted at 12:41 am in Similar cases

This may well be regarded as quite a contentious issue by some supporters of the restitution of the Elgin Marbles, but does Turkey have as much right to request the return of cultural treasures that they have lost?
Key differences between the cases are that generally speaking, while artefacts have been taken from Turkey & placed in foreign museums, these artefacts were not created by the Turks initially their current sense of responsibility for the artefacts remaining in their country is to be commended though.
The other difference is the circumstances under which the items were removed from Turkey, where they were taken from Turkey under the control of the Turks, rather than from a country that was under foreign occupation.

Turkish Daily News

People want stolen treasures returned:
Gila Benmayor
Saturday, February 26, 2005

I assume everybody knows that Turkey is full of historic and cultural treasures.

Unfortunately, much of it has been stolen and taken overseas.

Just think about the Bergama Museum in Berlin and the Treasure of Troy at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.
Read the rest of this entry »

British Museum would rather export cultural diplomacy than return artefacts

Posted at 12:35 am in British Museum, Similar cases

Yet again, the British Museum attempts to justify & post rationalise their continued retention of cultural treasures from around the world that were acquired in situations of dubious legality. This time they have invented a new phrase Cultural Diplomacy to explain their current actions.
Unfortunately the director of one of the Kenyan Museums is agreeing with him on this one.
Should retention of artefacts be justified by the level of care that can be provided for them? If this is the case, if somewhere else can care for it better than the British Museum, then is the British Museum then going to hand the artefacts over? Who decided this standard of care amongst museums? It certainly was not the result of any reasoned debate involving all the interested parties. Furthermore, is the care that could be provided by many African countries today any worse than the standard that was available at the British Museum at the time that the Artefacts were originally taken (Remember that until not that in Victorian times London was possibly the most polluted city in the world.

The Post (Lusaka, Zambia)

British Museum Would Rather Export Cultural Diplomacy Than Return Artefacts – Macgregor
The Post (Lusaka)

February 25, 2005
Edem Djokotoe
THE British Museum would rather export cultural diplomacy than return artefacts taken from countries around the world, its director, Neil Macgregor, has said.

Macgregor was speaking in an interview at the British Museum ahead of a media briefing on its Africa programme, which is aimed at stimulating debate about African issues across the UK.
Read the rest of this entry »

February 12, 2005

UNESCO promoting the return of cultural property

Posted at 1:14 pm in Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

The Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation has recently completed its 13th session in Paris, where amongst other things they took note of continuing co-operation between the British Museum & Greek Museums over the return of the Parthenon Marbles – I’m not at all sure what this co-operation is referring to though, & they don’t seem to have any full transcripts of the meeting available at the moment.


Saturday, February 12, 2005
Promoting the Return of Cultural Property
PARIS, FRANCE.- The Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation has expressed its concern over the continued pillaging of cultural objects in Iraq and urged UNESCO and its partners, ICOM, INTERPOL and the Italian Caribinieri, to continue their efforts to stem the illicit trafficking of Iraqi cultural heritage. The Committee, comprising 22 Member States, is responsible for seeking ways and means of facilitating bilateral negotiations for the restitution or return of cultural property to its countries of origin, and promoting such restitution.
Read the rest of this entry »

February 11, 2005

British plunder returned to Ethiopia

Posted at 1:40 pm in Similar cases

Ethiopia, & particularly the Ethiopian church have been lobbying for the return of various relics looted from their country for some time now & appear to be having a certain amount of success.

The Scotsman

Thursday 10th February 2005

British Plunder Returned to Ethiopia

Two sacred paintings have been returned to Ethiopia 137 years after they were ripped out of a holy book by invading British troops.

The paintings were among Ethiopian treasures looted by British troops and later locked up in British museums, royal palaces and private collections.

The paintings were handed to the Ethiopian embassy in London this week by a British lawyer who inherited them from his great uncle, an embassy official said
Read the rest of this entry »

February 9, 2005

Sweden to return marble fragment from Acropolis

Posted at 2:39 pm in Acropolis, Similar cases

A woman in Sweden read about the Swedish committee for the return of the Parthenon Marbles & has as a result decided to return a fragment taken from the Acropolis that she inherited from her father.


Wednesday February 9, 2005
Swedes to return bit of history

STOCKHOLM (AP) – A marble fragment removed over 100 years ago from an ancient temple in Athens will be donated to the new Acropolis museum under the citadel, a spokeswoman for a Swedish museum said yesterday.

The marble piece from the Erechtheion has been kept at the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm, where it was sent for analysis and examination last year.
Read the rest of this entry »

February 6, 2005

Concern for antiquities on Greek sea bed

Posted at 9:36 pm in Greece Archaeology

Greece is a country with an incredibly rich archaeological heritage. The downside of this is that strong measures need to be taken to preserve the remaining in-situ archaeological remains. Nowhere is this more important than on underwater sites, that are a lot harder to police than those on land.


Concern over fate of antiquities lying on the seabed
New bill does little to dispel experts’ looting fears
Experts know of more than 1,000 wrecks in Greek waters, all vulnerable to looting by antiquities thieves.
By Iota Sykka – Kathimerini

When a few months ago a leading light in the field of underwater exploration, Robert Ballard, visited Athens, he warned Greeks to guard their wrecks as if he knew what was coming.

A bill just released by the Merchant Marine Ministry on underwater diving appears to have raised the more general issue of protecting antiquities in Greek waters.
Read the rest of this entry »

February 2, 2005

European museums look for corporate funding

Posted at 3:19 pm in British Museum

Across Europe, governments are cutting the budgets of Museums. Being entirely funded from government money or donations means that the British Museum is hit harder by this than many other institutions are.
However, it also open up the argument that the British Museum could potentially be better off it they returned the Parthenon Marbles. The Greek government has specifically offered in the past the possibility of regular temporary exhibitions at the British Museum if the Marbles were returned. These would include the latest finds from archaeological excavations, many of which have never been on public display before. The British Museum although it is generally free, does charge for temporary exhibitions, & in many ways these are what really draws in the visitors (people who have already been to the museum may well come again for a specific exhibition – to see something that was not there the last time they visited).


European Museums Go Corporate as Governments Cap Handouts
Feb. 2 (Bloomberg)

Every year, 1.5 million people marvel at Sandro Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” as they snake through room after Renaissance room of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery.

That flow nearly stopped for good as the Italian government, in a budget-cutting drive, threatened last summer to slash the Culture Ministry’s operating costs by a quarter. The reaction was instant, and in house.

“You’re looking at a gradual shutdown of museums and archaeological sites,” Culture Minister Giuliano Urbani warned in the daily Corriere della Sera. “At this rate, we’ll have to consider closing part or all of the Uffizi.”
Read the rest of this entry »

January 29, 2005

Minister warns museums against hoarding

Posted at 2:38 pm in British Museum

Estelle Morris has warned British Institutions against hoarding large amounts of their collections that they do not have the space to display & that the public rarely see. Even 150 years ago the British Museum had far more artefacts than it could display, yet they still refuse to allow de-accessioning of works in their collections except under very specific conditions. Currently only 75 thousand out of more than 7 million items are displayed within the museum.

BBC News

Minister warns ‘hoarding’ museums
Last Updated: Thursday, 27 January, 2005, 17:02 GMT

Too many works of art and historical artefacts are hidden from public view, the government has said.

Arts minister Estelle Morris says major museums in England should allow smaller galleries to exhibit undisplayed items.

She said there was a growing appetite for “serious” culture in the country and called for the “cultural centre of gravity” to move away from London.
Read the rest of this entry »