June 25, 2009
This week’s Economist has two articles about the Parthenon Marbles. The previous week they featured an archive article from 1983 on the same subject.
Lord Elgin and the Parthenon marbles
Snatched from northern climes
Jun 25th 2009
Greek demands to get back the Elgin marbles risk stopping a better idea: museums lending their treasures
THERE is much to be said for moral clarity. Greece is insisting that the British Museum surrender the marble sculptures that Lord Elgin took down from the Parthenon and carted away in the early 1800s. Anything less, it says, would “condone the snatching of the marbles and the monument’s carving-up 207 years ago.” The Greek demand for ownership will arouse widespread sympathy, even among those who accept the British Museum’s claim to the marbles. With the opening of an impressive new museum in Athens (see article), the sculptures from the Parthenon now have good cause to be reunited, if only for artistic reasons.
But sometimes clarity is self-defeating. A previous Greek administration was willing to finesse the question of ownership and co-operate with the British Museum over a joint display of the marbles. By hardening its position, the Greek government risks driving museums everywhere into clinging to their possessions for fear of losing them. If the aim is for the greatest number of people to see the greatest number of treasures, a better way must be found.
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