January 21, 2008

Next move for Lewis Chessmen

Posted at 1:42 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Headline writers who had already perfected plays on words involving the Elgin Marbles (have the Greeks lost their marbles), have now moved onto variations on the theme using chess playing analogies when describing the demands for the return of the Lewis Chessmen to Scotland. It is interesting to see that now that there is more political will behind it (in Scotland), this particular argument is being forced to the forefront rather than popping up occasionally only to be forgotten again soon afterwards.

The Scotsman

Published Date: 20 January 2008
Source: Scotland On Sunday
Location: Scotland
Fabiani plays next move in SNP’s battle for return of Lewis Chessmen
By Murdo MacLeod
Political Correspondent

CULTURE Minister Linda Fabiani will this week take demands for the “repatriation” of the Lewis Chessmen to the British Museum in London.
Fabiani will see the chessmen, which were found in Lewis in the 19th century, on display in London and will lay out the Scottish Government’s campaign to have them brought north of the border.

The British Museum is forbidden by law from giving away or selling its assets, and ministers in Whitehall have said that they have no plans to change that, stressing that being in the British Museum means that the artefacts, also known as the Uig Chessmen, can be seen by millions of international visitors every year.

Fabiani said: “This Government believes it is unacceptable that only 11 Lewis Chessmen rest at the National Museum of Scotland while the other 82 remain in the British Museum in London. I am looking forward to sharing our thoughts with the British Museum. The Scottish Government continues to consult with interested parties to reach a consensus in Scotland. We will then take matters forward with a proposal.”

Last month, First Minister Alex Salmond called for all of the 93 chess pieces to be “repatriated” to Scotland, and last week Scotland on Sunday revealed that Islands MP
Angus MacNeil was preparing a bill which would allow the pieces to go north by giving the museum the freedom to give away or sell parts of its collection.

Locals in the Outer Hebrides believe that the chessmen could be a valuable tourism moneyspinner. Traditional industries such as fishing, tweed and oil-rig servicing have slumped, and the population has shrunk to 24,000, from more than 30,000 20 years ago.

Locals have also hinted they might settle for something less than all the pieces being in the Isles, or even in Scotland. One favoured option in the islands would see some of pieces shown in the village of Uig, where they were first found, others in Stornoway, and the rest between Edinburgh and London.

Some critics of the SNP’s stance have pointed out that the pieces are more likely to have come from Norway than Lewis, and that they only happened to be found in the island.

The full article contains 378 words and appears in Scotland On Sunday newspaper.
Last Updated: 19 January 2008 8:00 PM

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