Continuing my coverage of the loan of a Parthenon sculpture to Russia by the British Museum, here are some of the articles that express support for this move.
They range from the incorrect and naive (Dominic Selwood). Does anyone really believe that if the Greeks did what the British Museum asked then the marbles would return just like that? Firstly, there is the question of why they should endorse an assertion that they fundamentally believe is untrue. But, there is also the suspicion that when dealing with the British Museum, you are pressured to relinquish some of your position, yet end up getting nothing in return. Mr Selwood also seems to be forgetting how badly his point of view is out of synch with public opinion – as evidenced by the catastrophically low levels of endorsement of his arguments in a recent Prospect Magazine poll.
Next come the barking mad – in this instance represented by London’s mayor Borris Johnson, who has regularly in the past chosen to express how much he loves the marbles being in the British Museum, purely for his own benefit so that he can visit them more easily.
Finally there is the the indignant – incredulous querying of why the Greeks do not support this move in the same way as the British museum does, followed by tales of how they should be proud of it rather than complaining. Fairly predictably, this argument is represented its creator, Neil MacGregor. I’m sure that in the days when Britain had an empire, that this approach of telling people to feel thankful might have worked. Those days are long since gone though and countries and their peoples are more than capable of forming their own opinions on topics, without needing to take into account the instructions of those who believe the viewpoint they hold is somehow superior.
Looking at the source of the bulk of these articles, it could almost be argued though, that they are all merely manifestations of the Daily Telegraph viewpoint – that the Marbles must stay, so therefore any argument that backs this is therefore a valid one.
Part of the Parthenon Marbles, the British Museum plans to loan the river-god Ilissos to the Hermitage in St Petersburg
The Greeks can have the Elgin Marbles any time they like – if they play by the rules
The decision to lend a piece of the Elgin Marbles to Russia has nothing to do with Greece’s absurd campaign for their return
By Dominic Selwood
3:47PM GMT 05 Dec 2014
Today, everyone should be celebrating, including the Greeks. The Trustees of the British Museum have lent Russia’s stupendous State Hermitage Museum the statue of Ilissos, one of the jewels of the Parthenon sculptures. It is a new chapter in the history of these amazing sculptures, and one that underscores the promotion of education, culture, and understanding that the British Museum has always undertaken with its collections. Now citizens of Russia can also experience the wonder of this exquisite ancient art. This is a great day for Britain, Russia, and Greece.
The decision to lend the sculptures to Russia should not be seen as having anything to do with Greece’s claims over them. Despite the ongoing barrage of emotive complaints from supporters of the repatriation of the sculptures to Greece, the fact is that there is nothing that puts the British Museum’s Parthenon sculptures into a special heritage category. World museums routinely hold and exhibit artefacts from other countries. It is what they are there for, and is at the heart of their educational purpose. Stolen or illegitimate antiquities are required to be returned. Legitimate acquisitions can remain. No one seriously doubts that the Parthenon sculptures are the legal possession of the British Museum.
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