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Should Lewis Chessmen be returned?

Repatriation / restitution cases don’t necessarily involve other countries. The Lewis Chessmen are currently in the British Museum’s collection – but the people of Stornoway want to be able to exhibit them locally.

BBC News [1]

Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 September 2007, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Historic chessmen ‘should return’

The success of a major art exhibition at Stornoway Museum has proved that the town is capable of hosting the Lewis chessmen, a councillor has claimed.

Annie MacDonald said there had been “unprecedented co-operation” in creating the Fonn’s Duthchas exhibition at Stornoway’s museum.

The exhibition includes Sir Walter Scott’s manuscript for Rob Roy and several 17th Century paintings.

The world-famous chess pieces are housed in London and Edinburgh.

Fonn’s Duthchas (Land and Heritage), which has received £402,000 of funding from the Scottish Government, is being held as part of the Highland 2007 programme.

Mrs MacDonald said: “There has been a huge deal of co-operation that hasn’t really happened before with the National Galleries and the National Library in tow with the museum.

“The lesson I am learning from it is that we can put on a fantastic exhibition in Stornoway.

“There is no reason why, if we can do that with masterpieces from the 17th Century, that we can’t do it for our own chess pieces.”

Year-long tour

A total of 82 chess pieces were found on Lewis in 1831 before eventually being bought by the British Museum.

There are now 78 in existence, enough to make at least four incomplete chess sets.

They are believed to have been made in Norway, with most of the pieces carved from ivory and others from whale bone.

Some of the pieces were put on view at the Uig Community Centre on Lewis for one day only in 2000.

Fonn’s Duthchas opened in Inverness in January before embarking on a year-long tour of venues across Scotland. It can currently be seen in Stornoway.