Quote of the Day

Each stone as it fell shook the ground with its ponderous weight, with a deep hollow noise; it seemed like a convulsive groan of the injured spirit of the temple.

Sir Robert Smirke, Architect of the current British Museum

July 17, 2005

The importance of the Magdala Ethiopian manuscripts

Posted at 9:57 pm in Similar cases

We regularly hear about the importance of a specific artefact or group of artefacts, but all too often the mainstream press stops their description at this point & we are left to try & decipher for ourselves precisely what makes such an item significant. Richard Pankhurst uses this article to neatly outline some of the reasons why the Magdala Manuscripts held in the British Library are important in understanding many different aspects of Ethiopian culture & as a result should be available for more Ethiopians to study.

Addis Tribune (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)

Ethiopian Studies: A Call for Action
The Importance of Ethiopian Manuscripts
By Richard Pankhurst

Ethiopian manuscripts, which are mainly in the country’s classical language, Ge’ez, but also in Adare or Harari, Arabic and other languages, are of fundamental value for the study of Ethiopia’s history and culture.
Read the rest of this entry »

July 15, 2005

British laws need rewrite to deal with restitution claims

Posted at 6:20 pm in Similar cases

Following the Feldmann case, this article looks in more detail at the need for a change to the current laws in Britain. I still can not see though, what the reason is for limiting changes in laws to only include items looted by the Nazis, & therefore exclude other equally valid cases.


Britain may rewrite its law in order to return Nazi-looted art
By Daniella Peled
July 14, 2005

LONDON, July 14 (JTA) — A dispute over four Nazi-looted drawings currently in the British Museum is likely to lead to a change in British law to allow art stolen in World War II to be returned to its legal heirs.

The Old Masters in question, once part of a large collection belonging to Arthur Feldmann, a Jewish lawyer and a passionate art collector, were confiscated by the Gestapo on the day the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia, March 15, 1939.
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Possible solution to problems with New Acropolis Musem

Posted at 11:33 am in New Acropolis Museum

Following the problems facing the New Acropolis Museum contractor outlined in many of the Greek papers on 12th July, these new articles suggest that solutions have been put forward & we will know the outcome of the situation fairly soon. (Any errors in the translation are my fault)


Solution to the problems with the New Acropolis Museum
14 July 2005

In the course of next week it is expected that a solution will be reached for the problem that has been created by the economic obligations of the company constructing the New Acropolis Museum

Following the articles in the press two days ago, where the cause of the three month delay to the work was outlined, the site was visited by the deputy minister of Culture P. Tatoulis and was given a “guided tour” of the foundations of the building by the chairman of the OANMA Dimitris Pandermalis. Read the rest of this entry »

July 14, 2005

Tories call on government to take action on looted art

Posted at 6:15 pm in Similar cases

Following the publicity over the Feldmann case, it is interesting that this should suddenly be an issue now, when the issue has existed ever since the times that the works were looted, yet when their party was in power they took no more interest in it than the Labour government is now.

The Conservative Party

Swire calls on Culture Minister to take action on looted Nazi art
The Shadow Arts Minister, Hugo Swire has criticised the Minister for Culture, David Lammy, for failing to understand the issues surrounding the return of spoliated Nazi objects and failing to move forward, the process of restitution from British museums and galleries. He said:

“In a departmental question this week, it was made clear that the Minister does not understand the importance of honouring the Government’s commitment in 2000 to change legislation to allow for the return of art taken during World War 2.
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Egypt wants treasures returned

Posted at 4:30 pm in Similar cases

Many of Egypt’s artefacts have ended up scattered in museums throughout the western world. Even at the time of the construction of the Parthenon, items were already being removed from Egypt. The Egyptian government has asked for the return of many of these items on a number of occasions recently & is again re-iterating their request.
This time they are specifically asking for what they believe are the five most precious items, which include the Rosetta stone from the British Museum.

Sydney Morning Herald

Egypt wants its museum treasures back
July 14, 2005 – 6:44AM
Egypt is launching a campaign for the return of five of its most precious artefacts from museums abroad, including the Rosetta Stone in London and the graceful bust of Nefertiti in Berlin.

Zahi Hawass, the country’s chief archaeologist, said the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO had agreed to mediate in its claims for artefacts currently at the British Museum, Paris’ Louvre, two German museums and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
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July 13, 2005

Aboriginal bark etchings return to British Museum

Posted at 6:14 pm in Similar cases

An end to a dispute that has been ongoing between the British Museum & the Aborigines in Australia for some time. The artefacts will (for the time being anyway) returned to the British Museum’s collection shortly.

ABC News (Australia)

Last Update: Wednesday, July 13, 2005. 7:43am (AEST)
Bid fails to stop Indigenous artefacts from returning to Britain

Indigenous artefacts at the centre of a bitter dispute between north-west Victorian Aboriginal groups and the British Museum have been returned to Britain.

The bark etchings were on loan to Museum Victoria and were the subject of an unsuccessful court battle by the Dja Dja Warrung people to keep them in Australia.
Read the rest of this entry »

July 12, 2005

Issues with the contractor delaying New Acropolis Museum

Posted at 9:03 pm in New Acropolis Museum

The issue with the contractor (ALTE) in charge of the construction of the New Acropolis Museum, is that they owe the government money for taxes & National Insurance. My understanding is that due to the fact the project is funded by the government, the contractor is therefore not allowed to receive government money until it has resolved these unpaid debts to the government. Professor Pandermalis outlines three possible solutions to the problem:

  1. That someone else (the government?) could make some form of agreement to pay off the contractor’s debts (presumably to be paid back later.)
  2. That the contractor can directly appoint a new contractor to complete the works (assuming that the client (the OANMA) are happy with the choice of contractor)
  3. The worst case scenario is that if either of these plans is not possible for some reason then the project would go out to tender again which would mean a delay of at least 6 months to the project.

Any errors in the text are from my translation.


12 July 2005
New problems for the Museum
Economic issues of contractors delay the construction of the New Acropolis Museum

Υιοtas Sykka

People who pass the Makriyianni plot at the moment, can now see some of the construction works for the New Acropolis Museum filling the space. Do not imagine that there is anything spectacular to see at present. Nevertheless, four levels of basements are completed. This is quite impressive when you consider that we have been waiting for the completion of the museum for the last 20 years & each government thought that the project would be completed within their term of office.
The problems with the project continue. At present the construction advances at a very slow pace, the cause this time are the economic problems that face the contractors building the museum.
Read the rest of this entry »

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
Read the rest of this entry »

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).
Read the rest of this entry »

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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