Quote of the Day

It’s time to heal the wounds of the monument with the return of the marbles which belong to it.

Karolos Papoulias, Hellenic Republic president

April 10, 2014

NIU Art Museum exhibition – Looting, Hoarding & Collecting

Posted at 12:57 pm in Events, Similar cases

This story interests me, a it shows the growing level of support for re-thinking ownership of disputed cultural property. Gradually, it is becoming harder & harder for museums to just completely ignore the subject & pretend it doesn’t exist.

Miniconjou chief Spotted Elk lies dead after the Wounded Knee Massacre

Miniconjou chief Spotted Elk lies dead after the Wounded Knee Massacre

From:
Rock River Times

NIU exhibit addresses looting, repatriation as they relate to museum collections
April 2, 2014
Online Staff Report

DEKALB, Ill. — The Northern Illinois University (NIU) Art Museum will present Looting, Hoarding, Collecting …, an exhibition curated by students in the Museum Exhibitions and Interpretation class as a part of the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program at NIU. This exhibition will be on view in the North and Hall Case Galleries of the NIU Art Museum from April 3 through May 23; a public reception will be from 4:30 to 7 p.m., April 3.

This exhibition explores historic and current issues of looting and repatriation as they relate to museum collections. These issues have just begun to be examined in depth, and continue to challenge museum curators as they attempt to sort through the murky provenance of looted artifacts to determine whether objects should be returned to their original owners.
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April 7, 2014

Is it time for Africa’s stolen artefacts to return home?

Posted at 1:01 pm in Similar cases

Although some of the reviews of it haven’t been that great, the film Monuments Men has done an amazing job of raising awareness for the issue of disputed artefacts.

In this article, Chika Ezeanya looks at the many African Artefacts that have ended up in the museums & institutions of the West.

A series of African sculptures in the Yale collection

A series of African sculptures in the Yale collection

From:
Think Africa Press

It’s Time for Africa’s Stolen Artefacts to Come Home
Africa’s history has for too long laid scattered across Western museums and private collections, out of the reach of their true owners’ hearts, minds and memories.
Article | 4 April 2014 – 11:33am | By Chika Ezeanya

In a recently-released film, The Monuments Men, in which a group of Second World War soldiers embark upon a mission to save pieces of art before they are destroyed by the Nazis, Lieutenant Frank Stokes, played by George Clooney, notes: “You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they will still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, if you destroy their achievements, then it is as if they never existed.”

While in London to publicise the film, this basic premise was given contemporary significance as the all-star cast touched a sensitive nerve by suggesting it was time for Britain to return the so-called Elgin Marbles to Greece. Some British commentators hit out at the actors’ suggestions of repatriating the huge marble sculptures and pieces of architecture ‘acquired’ by Lord Elgin from Athens in the 19th century, while the Greek government expressed their “heartfelt thanks” for the show of solidarity.
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Stealing culture was around well before the Monuments Men

Posted at 12:52 pm in Similar cases

The film Monuments Men has drawn attention to one small episode in the dishonourable history of looting artefacts. the reality is of course, that it is something that has gone on for thousands of years & still continues today, albeit more covertly than at some points in the past.

Its great that a film highlights a topic like this, but we shouldn’t see it as an isolated incident – a one off aberration that relates to a different time & place.

Scene from the film Monuments Men

Scene from the film Monuments Men

From:
Statesman (Texas)

Posted: 12:00 a.m. Saturday, April 5, 2014
‘Monuments Men’ highlights WWII looting, but stealing culture has been around for ages
By Melissa K. Byrnes

Special to the American-Statesman

George Clooney’s latest movie, “The Monuments Men,” takes viewers on a beautifully filmed journey through Europe in the last years of the Second World War. The plot follows a group of western Allied soldiers charged with saving the masterworks of European civilization from the retreating Nazis — and the advancing Soviets. Where, though, did this fascination with cultural heritage begin?

Cultural artifacts have long been seized as prizes for military victory. This tradition can be traced back to the myth of the Golden Fleece, stolen by Jason and his Argonauts. The celebratory stone tablet of Naram-Sim was seized by the Elamites around 1250 B.C., later claimed by 19th-century French excavators and now sits in the Louvre. Homer recounts the Greek sacking of Troy, while the Bible tells of Nebuchadnezzar raiding the Temple of Solomon.
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April 3, 2014

Summer opening hours for Acropolis Museum

Posted at 1:00 pm in Acropolis, Greece Archaeology, New Acropolis Museum

Previously I mentioned the new opening hours for the Acropolis. The New Acropolis Museum will also be switching to its summer hours.

One think I really like, is that unlike many places in mainland Europe, the museums are open on Mondays, albeit for shorter hours than normal.

Acropolis Museum

Acropolis Museum

From:
Kathimerini (English Edition)

Thursday April 3, 2014
Leading Greek museums and sites extend visiting hours for new tourist season

A number of the country’s archaeological sites and museums inaugurated extended visiting hours on Tuesday in view of the upcoming tourist season.

The Acropolis and the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Crete’s Knossos, Santorini’s Akrotiri and the sites of Ancient Olympia and Delphi in the Peloponnese were among a group of 33 museums and sites set to operate on the new spring-summer schedule – daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. – through the end of October.
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April 2, 2014

Unfortunately, the previous post on UNESCO mediation was not accurate

Posted at 12:01 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

As many may have spotted, yesterday was April 1st. As a result of this, some of the items I posted, may not have been entirely accurate.

Much as I (and many others) want the British Government & British Museum to enter into the UNESCO mediation process, thus far, there has been nothing except silence from them.

I should also note that Pillory Dour & Henna Biltong are entirely fictional characters, and that any resemblance of them to people working for the British Government & British Museum is entirely coincidental.

So, to make the previous post become reality, more needs to be done to encourage the Government to accept the mediation request. At the moment, they are ignoring it, because they feel comfortable taking this course of action. So, write to your MP, raise awareness, publish stories publicising the lack of response, so that eventually they might feel more inclined to take action.

April 1, 2014

How can Western Museum (re-)present their colonial past

Posted at 12:54 pm in Similar cases

Many of the European countries have had long & complex colonial pasts. Within their history, there are no doubt many episodes that people today wish could be forgotten. Within the museums of the West, there is also the fact to consider that many of the artefacts in their collections are there as a result of colonisation. During the end of the era of colonialism, there was a physical colonisation, where most countries withdrew their presence within former colonies & gradually granted them independence. There has never been the same impetus however behind a cultural decolonisation – handing back of the cultural artefacts that were acquired in circumstances of dubious legality.

Is the time right now for a re-think of this? To re-assemble our museums as spaces that tell a story fit for the 21st century, giving us a fuller awareness of how the artefacts came to be assembled there & who else claims ownership on them?

The sculpture of the ‘leopard man’ at the Museum of Central Africa

The sculpture of the ‘leopard man’ at the Museum of Central Africa

From:
Irish Times

The plunder years: culture and the colony
Suzanne Lynch
Last Updated: Monday, March 24, 2014, 16:59

Last month, George Clooney was drawn into a cultural debate that has long been a sensitive issue for Britain. Asked during a press conference in London’s National Gallery if the Elgin Marbles should continue to be housed in the British Museum or in Athens, the actor said the sculptures should be returned to the Parthenon from where they were taken by Lord Elgin in the 19th century.

Clooney was in town to promote The Monuments Men , a film that explores the ethical questions around cultural ownership as it tells the story of soldiers tasked with retrieving stolen art from Nazi Germany during the second World War.
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British Government agrees to UNESCO mediation for Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 12:01 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Last year, the Greek government made the announcement that they had approached UNESCO, about inviting the UK to enter into mediation over the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures. The Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Country of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation sets out a series of rules, that such mediation should follow, although the case of the Marbles would be the first time it had actually been implemented.

Many naysayers suggested that despite this new initiative by Greece, the British Government & British Museum would not consider entering into such a procedure, as there was nothing in the rules to compel them to do so and no time limit for them to reply to the request.

There was also the issue, that in all previous requests, the British Government pointed out that such requests were a matter to be dealt with by the trustees of the British Museum, whilst the trustees would point out that they would not be legally allowed to de-accession the sculptures, under the terms of the British Museum Act 1963.

Now, in what many involved with the case have suggested is an unexpected move, the British Government have responded to Greece’s minister of culture, indicating that they are happy to enter into mediation immediately. Under the UNESCO rules, the mandated timescale for the process to be completed in is one year, meaning that the issue of the Marbles could be resolved by 1st April next year, if not before.

The issues of the Marbles being a matter for the British Museum to determine were also noted by the government in their initial response, where they explained that whilst this has been the case in the past, it is really more of a political shorthand for noting that they are uninterested in resolving the issue, noting that as the museum is largely funded by the government, they do in fact have the ability to exert a large level of control over it & would do their utmost to ensure that the Museum was fully represented during the negotiations and to enforce whatever actions were agreed to at the end of the process.

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

From:
Department for Culture, Media & Sport

Notice of intention to enter into mediation with an aim to swiftly resolve the Parthenon Marbles issue
April 01, 2014

The British Government would like to notify Greece that we have accepted their invitation to enter into mediation via UNESCO, over the issue of the Parthenon Marbles.

Previously issues have been raised over whether we had jurisdiction over the British Museum, and there are still many question marks over this. However, in the interests of progressing the resolution of this long standing embarrassment to the British people, we are jointly going to co-operate with the trustees.

We acknowledge that the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures are a unique case, and, as such we are happy to do whatever it might take to resolve the issue.

Further updates will be posted on our website in due course.

Pillory Dour
On behalf of the International Cultural Property Unit, Department of Culture, Media & Sport

From:
British Museum

British Museum agrees to Greek Mediation proposal
April 01, 2014

Following a request from the Department of Culture Media & Sport, the British Museum has agreed to work in partnership with the government to satisfy Greece’s requests for mediation over the Parthenon Marbles issue.

This is not a decision that we were able to take lightly, but we realise it was a move that we had to make. We have gradually come to understand that issues such as this are not going to go away, and accept that we need to make more effort to try & resolve them, in the interests of maintaining the current levels of co-operation with countries such as Greece.

Various surveys have shown that our continuing retention of the sculptures is out of sync with public opinion. For a long time, the trustees hoped that this was a one off blip in the statistics, but we are now resigned to the fact that our continued retention of the sculptures is hurting our public image as world class museum.

We with Greece the best of luck with the mediation, and over the next year, will be able to tell you more, as the process unfolds.

Henna Biltong
Head of Press, British Museum

March 31, 2014

Half of looted Sevso Silver returns to Hungary

Posted at 5:50 pm in Similar cases

It appears that China isn’t the only country that has decided that buying disputed artefacts back is sometimes the simplest way to re-acquire them following looting.

In this instance, it is the Sevso Silver, fourteen items which Hungary claims were looted, but were sold to private buyers during the 1980s. The treasure constitutes fourteen items in total. This purchase re-acquires seven of them for €15 million, from undisclosed sellers.

My earlier reservations still stand, as do those presented previously by Kwame Opoku.

Sevso treasure in 1990

Sevso treasure in 1990

From:
Guardian

Sevso treasure items repatriated by Hungarian government after UK sale
The Roman silver, discovered in Hungary in the 1970s, was bought from an ‘unidentified London seller’ for €15m
Dalya Alberge
Thursday 27 March 2014 17.51 GMT

The Hungarian government has repatriated seven of the 14 pieces from the Sevso treasure, a spectacular hoard of 4th-century Roman silver whose ownership had long been contested by several countries.

The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, announced this week that the pieces have been repatriated to Budapest in return for €15m, reportedly paid to unidentified sellers in London. The pieces include the so-called “Hunting Plate” and the “Dionysiac Ewer”.
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Earth hour at the Acropolis

Posted at 1:03 pm in Acropolis

As in other years, the Acropolis in Athens has been a part of the worldwide Earth Hour, dimming its lights on the evening of 29th March.

The Acropolis, before & during Earth Hour

The Acropolis, before & during Earth Hour

From:
Inquirer

Lights out for iconic landmarks on Earth Hour
Agence France-Presse
10:36 am | Sunday, March 30th, 2014

NEW YORK – Iconic landmarks around the world were plunged into darkness Saturday as lights went out in thousands of places as part of a global fundraising drive for local environmental projects.

New York’s Empire State Building, the ancient Acropolis in Athens, Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue and Sydney’s Opera House were among those blacked out for 60 minutes at 8:30 pm local time for the annual Earth Hour.
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March 27, 2014

Talk in Zurich on the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 1:45 pm in Elgin Marbles, Events

Professor Dusan Sidjanski of the Swiss Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures is giving a talk to the Association of Greek Academics in Switzerland. The talk is titled “Europe & the Marbles – a common cause”.

For more details, see the flyer below.

Flyer for the talk

Flyer for the talk

March 24, 2014

Is buying back disputed artefacts really a solution?

Posted at 6:31 pm in Similar cases

Prompted by the recent articles on China’s attempts to buy back disputed treasures, Kwame Opoku looks at whether or not this approach could ever work for other countries, and the various issues that it raises.

Bronzes looted from the Summer Palace during the Opium Wars

Bronzes looted from the Summer Palace during the Opium Wars

From:
Eurasia Review

China’s Purchase Of Chinese Looted Artifacts: An Example For Other States? – OpEd
March 24, 2014
By Kwame Opoku

‘One day two bandits entered the Summer Palace. One plundered, the other burned. Victory can be a thieving woman, or so it seems. The devastation of the Summer Palace was accomplished by the two victors acting jointly. Mixed up in all this is the name of Elgin, which inevitably calls to mind the Parthenon. What was done to the Parthenon was done to the Summer Palace, more thoroughly and better, so that nothing of it should be left. All the treasures of all our cathedrals put together could not equal this formidable and splendid museum of the Orient. It contained not only masterpieces of art, but masses of jewellery. What a great exploit, what a windfall! One of the two victors filled his pockets; when the other saw this he filled his coffers. And back they came to Europe, arm in arm, laughing away. Such is the story of the two bandits. Before history, one of the two bandits will be called France; the other will be called England’. — Victor Hugo. (1)

These sculptures of a rat head and a rabbit head were among the objects looted in 1860 when French and British soldiers under the command of Lord Elgin sacked the imperial palace in Beijing. The eighth Lord Elgin was the son of the seventh Lord Elgin, who removed the Parthenon Marbles from Athens. These two sculptures have now been returned to China. (2)
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Human chain around the Parthenon

Posted at 6:23 pm in Acropolis

More coverage of the human chain around the Parthenon for Anti-Racism day.

As I mentioned before, it would be great if something like this could happen on a regular basis to help draw attention to the issue of the Parthenon Marbles.

Children form human chain around the Parthenon

Children form human chain around the Parthenon

From:
Greek Reporter

2,500 Kids Form Human Chain Around Parthenon
Ioanna Zikakou – Mar 21, 2014

Today, 2,500 children gathered at the Acropolis, forming a human chain around the Parthenon upon the initiative of the General Secretariat of Transparency and Human Rights to mark the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Under the banner “We embrace the Acropolis, embrace democracy, embrace humanity”, children of many nationalities as well as some with disabilities sang about the meaning of the day and released 2000 colored balloons into the Attica sky, sending the message of peaceful and creative coexistence without discrimination amongst people.
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