April 28, 2005

Deputy director of Benaki Museum to speak in Sydney about efforts to return Elgin Marbles

Posted at 5:51 pm in Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Deputy director of Benaki Museum Stavros Vlizos is speaking at this conference in Sydney on Tuesday 3rd May about the efforts to repatriate the Elgin Marbles.

Sydney Morning Herald

Museum talks: fun and war
By Alexa Moses
April 29, 2005

Lord of the Rings or Uzbekistani embroidery? No prizes for guessing which recent exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum attracted more visitors.

The balance between scholarship and audience appeal is one of the topics 450 international and Australian museum experts will grapple with at Museums Australia’s national conference, Politics and Positioning, which begins in Sydney on Sunday. Museums Australia is the professional association for museum and gallery workers.

Its president, Carol Scott, says one of the government directives for publicly funded museums is to build audiences among young people. “Part of our funding agreement is being able to effect a change in this way,” Scott says. “The pop culture exhibitions do this – they build youth audiences, they build family audiences.”

She describes the debate in terms of instrumental outcomes, contrasted to intrinsic values. “A lot of what funding is tied to is instrumental outcomes – they could be economic, they could be social policy outcomes. They’re not bad, but what we need is funding because there’s intrinsic long-term value in culture.”

The four-day conference will also consider the way museums represent increasing social diversity, as well as the issue of repatriation of cultural material taken by one civilisation from another.

On Tuesday, the chief executive officer of Museum Victoria, Dr Patrick Greene, will talk about contested objects, specifically bark etchings and a ceremonial emu figure lent to Museum Victoria by two British museums which Dja Dja Wurrung elders are attempting to keep in Victoria.

Dr Stavros Vlizos, from the Benaki Museum, will discuss continuing Greek attempts to have the Parthenon, or Elgin, marbles repatriated from the British Museum and the director-general of Iraqi Museums, Dr Donny George, is expected to talk about the looting of the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad in 2003.

Scott says the repatriation of material taken during World WarII will be discussed.

“The other really interesting topic is war and conflict,” she says. “You open a World War II museum in Berlin. How do you interpret the war in Germany?”

These are issues, she says, that evoke strong emotion. “Museums are still a safe format for discussing such ideas.”

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