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UK Culture Minister rules out “nonsense” chessmen bid

Unsurprisingly, the view of the British Department for Culture, Media & Sport hasn’t welcomed Scotland’s requests for the restitution of the Lewis Chessmen [1]. I doubt that this is the end of this particular story though.

From:
The Scotsman [2]

Published Date: 28 January 2008
Source: The Scotsman
Location: Scotland
Plan to return chessmen to Scotland is ‘nonsense’, says minister
By HAMISH MACDONELL

THE UK government has knocked back Alex Salmond’s attempt to repatriate the Lewis Chessmen, deriding his plan as “nonsense”.
The First Minister wants the artefacts to be taken from the British Museum and put on display in Scotland.

But Margaret Hodge, the UK culture minister, dismissed the idea yesterday, accusing Mr Salmond of “creating conflict, not culture”.

Mr Salmond told a Gaelic audience last month that he wanted to see the chess pieces returned to Scotland.

The British Museum has strongly resisted the idea and yesterday Ms Hodge intervened to rubbish the repatriation plans on behalf of the Westminster government, saying: “It’s a lot of nonsense, isn’t it?”

She said: “Mr Salmond’s clarion call is all about creating conflict, not culture. It’s an ounce of policy mixed with a pound of posturing because museums and galleries in the 21st century do not have static collections.

“They lend and borrow. They acquire. Imagine how the National Gallery in Edinburgh would be with nothing but Scottish pictures on the wall.”

The minister said the pieces had been made in Norway and were probably on their way to Ireland when they got lost in the Western Isles.

She added that the pieces were made of walrus ivory, which was not indigenous to Scotland, and had been loaned to museums all over the world, including to places in Scotland, by the British Museum.

“It seems to me that they’ve been doing a pretty good job promoting the importance of Europe
an medieval culture – and Scotland’s place in it – without any help from those who would round them up into a single, static place,” the minister said.

However, Ms Hodge’s intervention drew a sharp response from Linda Fabiani, the Scottish culture minister.

She said: “This type of uninformed and dismissive attitude is not helpful. The reality is that under the current Treasure Trove system, the Lewis Chessmen would have stayed in Scotland and been displayed in Scotland’s museums (were they found today].”

Ms Fabiani said the Scottish Government would continue to press for the repatriation of the pieces and said she had made her views known to the British Museum.

“The Scottish 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 and I shared this view with the British Museum.”

The full article contains 401 words and appears in The Scotsman newspaper.
Last Updated: 28 January 2008 8:47 AM

From:
The Scotsman [3]

Published Date: 28 January 2008
Source: Edinburgh Evening News
Location: Scotland
Minister rules out ‘nonsense’ chessmen bid

A SCOTTISH Government campaign to house the historic Lewis chessmen north of the Border has been branded “a lot of nonsense” by UK Culture Minister Margaret Hodge.
Most of the 13th-century figurines are housed at the British Museum in London, but First Minister Alex Salmond recently backed calls for their return to Scotland.

They were found on a beach near Uig on the Isle of Lewis around 1830. But Ms Hodge said the artefacts were made in Norway about 850 years ago and buried on Lewis for safekeeping, a position held by experts.

She also questioned whether the SNP policy would mean the repatriation of valuable artefacts from Scottish museums.

She said: “It’s not hard to imagine someone overseas wanting the glorious mummies and antiquities in the National Museum in Edinburgh sent back to Egypt, or the Burrell’s Impressionist paintings repatriated to France.”

Scottish Culture Minister Linda Fabiani viewed the chessmen on a trip to the British museum on Saturday, where 82 of the 93 figurines are housed. The remainder are based at the national museum in Edinburgh. Ms Fabiani then met with Andrew Burnett, deputy director of the museum, to outline her concerns.

From:
Scotland on Sunday [4]

Published Date: 27 January 2008
Source: Scotland On Sunday
Location: Scotland
Hodge attacks Salmond’s Chessmen gambit
By Jenny Percival
Westminster Editor

UK CULTURE minister Margaret Hodge has dismissed Alex Salmond’s demand for the Lewis Chessmen to be returned to Scotland as “nonsense”.
Writing in today’s Scotland on Sunday, she accuses the First Minister of “creating conflict, not culture” with his call for the artefacts, found on a beach in Lewis in the 19th century, to be “seized” from their home in the British Museum in London.

And she suggests that the chessmen do no necessarily belong in Scotland anyway, pointing out that they were made in Norway and buried in Lewis at time when the Western Isles belonged to Norway, and were on their way to Ireland.

Hodge’s intervention came as Scottish Culture Minister Linda Fabiani yesterday travelled to London to view the chessmen and met museum officials to discuss the artefacts’ “repatriation”.

Fabiani rejected Hodge’s comments, saying: “This type of uninformed and dismissive attitude is not helpful.

“The reality is that under the current Treasure Trove system, the Lewis Chessmen would have stayed in Scotland and been displayed in Scotland’s museums.”

In spite of the UK Government’s refusal to budge on the issue, Fabiani said she would continue to press the case for the return of the chessmen, which date back to the 13th century.

“I viewed the Lewis Chessmen at the British Museum – the set is a wonderful tre
asure which was found on the Isle of Lewis around 1831.

“The Scottish Government believes that it is unacceptable that only 11 Lewis Chessmen rest at the National Museum of Scotland, while the other 82 remain in the British Museum, and I shared this view with the British Museum.”

Hodge suggests that Salmond has ignored the role of modern museums in sharing their collections with as wide an audience as possible in order to make a political point.

She writes: “It’s not hard to imagine someone overseas wanting the glorious mummies and antiquities in the National Museum in Edinburgh sent back to Egypt, or the Burrell’s Impressionist paintings repatriated to France.

“And maybe we could redress the balance still further. How about slapping in a claim for the pink granite of the Albert Memorial in London to be stripped out and ‘sent home’ to Mull? It’s a lot of nonsense, isn’t it?”

The full article contains 376 words and appears in Scotland On Sunday newspaper.
Last Updated: 26 January 2008 10:05 PM