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Lewis Chessmen to be discussed

After a lot of coverage at the start of the year, it appears that efforts to secure the return of the Lewis Chessmen [1] to Scotland are still underway, with the Scottish Culture Minister due to meet Neil MacGregor to discuss the issue.

Stornoway Gazette [2]

Chessmen could celebrate ‘Homecoming’ on Lewis
25 September 2008
By Michelle Robson

THE LEWIS Chessmen could be coming home next year as part of Scotland’s national celebrations.
2009 is the Year of the Homecoming and Scottish Ministers are hoping the British Museum will agree to return the historical items to their finding place.

Culture Minister Linda Fabiani said this week that she was due to meet the Director of the British Museum on October 6 to discuss the issue further.

Speaking in response to a question from MSP Hugh O’Donnell in the Scottish Parliament last week, Ms Fabiani said: “I discussed the Chessmen when I visited the British Museum in January this year, but have been disappointed by its apparent lack of responsiveness to continuing that dialogue. However, I have managed to secure a meeting with the director of the British Museum on Monday, 6 October. I hope that our discussion will be constructive.”

She added: “I am sure that the Member will be interested to know that there have been positive operational discussions between the British Museum and the National Museums of Scotland about potential future exhibitions of the Chessmen in Scotland and future collaboration on research. The National Museums of Scotland is also considering activities involving the Chessmen for the Year of Homecoming in 2009.”

Mr O’Donnell also quizzed Ms Fabiani on the general policy of the Scottish Government in repatriating artefacts and asked whether she supported a move to return the Elgin Marbles to the people of Greece?

Remaining focused on the Chessmen she replied: “Every case should be considered on its own merits. The case for the Lewis Chessmen is particularly strong, and there is no reason whatsoever why, under the current United Kingdom settlement, the British Museum should not return the chessmen to the National Museum of Scotland. Of course, come independence, how such things are dealt with will change.”

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan joined the debate and asked Ms Fabiani whether the plans would bring the Chessmen not only to Scotland but up to Lewis, and she told the Parliament she was optimistic this would happen.

“I have no doubt whatsoever that agreement will be reached between the National Museum of Scotland and Lewis so that Lewis’ legacy can be properly displayed throughout the Homecoming season.”

And so the debate about the rightful place for artefacts to be displayed continues and Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, Ted Brocklebank, also questioned whether the Chessmen should be going ‘home’ to Norway rather than to Lewis.

Nevertheless, Ms Fabiani maintained that they should go back to where they were found.

“Research is on going not every expert agrees with Mr Brocklebank’s contention. However, the chessmean certainly marched out of the sea and landed at Uig, and that is where they should be,” she concluded.