Showing results 1 - 12 of 72 for the tag: Neil MacGregor.

November 14, 2014

Neil MacGregor on the Parthenon Marbles – Greece responds

Posted at 11:40 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Following Kwame Opoku’s reponse to British Museum Director Neil MacGregor’s recent comments on the Parthenon Marbles, the Greek Ministry of Culture have also forwarded me their own response, highlighting the many inaccuracies & inconsistencies in MacGregor’s interview.

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

From:
Greek Ministry of Culture (by email)

Response to comments made by Neil MacGregor in an interview in the Times on 7th November

1. UNESCO, which has invited the Greek and the British Governments to take part in a mediation process to resolve the issue, is an intergovernmental organization. However, the Trustees of the British Museum are not part of the British government. It is the Trustees and not the Government that own the great cultural collections of the country.

UNESCO is indeed an intergovernmental organization. It is hard to believe that a Government would discuss an issue it does not have competence on. It is hard to believe that if there were political will from the UK for the return of the Marbles to Greece the BM would resist this will. Negotiations conducted all those years with the good services of UNESCO were between the two States (Greece and the UK). Yet, a BM representative was always there. In any case the links at all levels between the BM and the UK Government are well known. Returns have already been effected in Britain on the basis of changes in the law such as the enactment of the Human Tissue Act 2004. This Act enabled the return of human remains located in UK museum collections (under the same status as the one applying to the Marbles). Those were unethically removed from Australian Aboriginals, New Zealand Maori and Native Americans and were returned to their countries of origin. In this light persistence in formalities can only be used as an evasion of the real issue.
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November 7, 2014

British Museum boss: Parthenon Marbles acquisition was legal

Posted at 2:47 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

No one expects the British Museum to just suddenly acquiesse on the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures. Even by their own standards though, some of what is in the latest interview with their Director, Neil MacGregor, is pushing the bounds of credibility.

Now – to the best of my knowledge, the only firman (or permit) that Elgin ever managed to show to anyone (in Italian translation) stated that he had permission to make measure, sketch & make casts of the sculptures and buildings on the site. It also stated that they could dig up inscribed blocks that might have been preserved in the rubble. Some of the Parthenon Sculptures may fall into this category, but the vast majority were sawn from the building by Elgin. The firman is fairly specific in its wording regarding taking casts, so it seems that it would be an odd omission to describe other things in such detail, but not to mention that he was also allowed to remove large chunks of the ancient monument & saw it apart to remove the sculptures from it. On this basis alone, I think it would be safe to say that the legality of the removal is called into question.

Neil MacGregor however seems to see things a different way – and he believes that most other people do too. He asks himself “Was the acquisition legal?” and then immediately responds “I think everybody would have to agree that it was.” Hearing things such ass this only helps to convince me that a major change of tactics is needed if the sculptures are to return to Greece any time soon. When the institution that holds them is so emphatically certain that they are right, it is hard to start any sort of serious negotiations.

MacGregor falls on a peculiar fallacy, that because it took a long time to remove the sculptures (this is true & well documented), that therefore lots of people must have seen him do it & therefore as he was not stopped, what was doing must have been legal. If a criminal used this as a defence today, we wouldn’t use it as evidence of the legality of their actions though – merely that they were adept at avoiding getting caught.

It is clear from his statements that the British Museum has no fear of the UNESCO mediation request – they believe that UNESCO should deal only with governments, so it does not apply to them. The British Government will of course take the line that it is not the decision for the government can make, and note that the responsibility falls to the Trustees of the British Museum. This is a true assessment of things – but if the government had a will to do something, I’m sure they would not be adverse to leaning on the Trustees & trying to get them to deal with the issue.

MacGregor also highlights another major stumbling block (although I’m sure that he does not see it this way), that Greece must acknowledge that the British Museum is the legal owner of the sculptures, before any negotiations can begin. As a large part of Greece’s claim rests on the fact that the marbles were not legally acquired, then to state that they were before any negotiations would be a disaster. Why would they want to relinquish a big chunk of their arguments before they even start? If the same thing happened in trials over the ownership of Nazi loot, there would be a public outcry.

Throwing one final stone over his parapet, MacGregor shows that the museum is entirely remorseless on the issue (or perhaps entirely misunderstands the issue), stating that even if Elgin was to do the same now, it would still be legal by the standards of the museum. Using as an example (an entirely different situation of) archaeological digs in Sudan, where they have been invited to excavate by the authorities. To understand just how spurious this example is, note that:
1. The government of Sudan is not seen by Britain to be an occupying power.
2. The permits & what they allow them to do / not do, are presumably carefully documented, checked by various lawyers & certified copies filed away somewhere securely.
3. The terms of the permits are presumably adhered to, without massive ad-hoc undocumented changes to the mission.

I’m sure if I looked into it in more detail, many more details would show just what a ridiculous comparison is being made here.

British Museum Director Neil MacGregor

British Museum Director Neil MacGregor

From:
The Times

Neil MacGregor: ‘There is no possibility of putting the Elgin Marbles back’
Richard Morrison
Published at 12:01AM, November 7 2014

The British Museum director explains why the Parthenon Sculptures will not be returned to Greece during his tenure

If he’s a man under pressure he seems blithely unaware of it. At precisely 8.58am last Tuesday morning a dapper 68-year-old docks his Boris bike and walks through the great gates of his institution, which are still closed to the public. “Morning, Neil,” says the security guard. “Gentleman from The Times waiting to see you.” The director of the British Museum has arrived for work.
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February 26, 2013

Bronze age gold cape to return to Wales on loan

Posted at 1:59 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

More coverage of the return (on loan) of the Mold Cape, planned to take place later this year. This is not the first tie that the cape has been returned on loan – a previous exhibition of it in Wrexham took place in 2005.

From:
BBC News

23 February 2013 Last updated at 11:07
Mold gold cape to be displayed in Cardiff and Wrexham museums

A unique ceremonial Bronze Age gold cape which was discovered in Flintshire 180 years ago is to go on display in Cardiff and Wrexham this summer.

The Mold Gold Cape, thought to have been a woman’s, will be loaned first to the National Museum in Cardiff in July.
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November 29, 2012

“Universal Objects” such as Cyrus Cylinder more easily lent to US museums than Iranian ones

Posted at 8:55 am in British Museum, Similar cases

While its great to enable as many people as possible to see iconic ancient artefacts, I have a couple of issues with this. First of all, it seems that a loan to not one, but five different museums can take place with relatively little fuss – yet when it was loaned to Iran (the original owners of the artefact), it was a long drawn out process over a number of years involving threats of legal action and to withdraw other cooperation before finally they were able to receive it.

At the end, Neil MacGregor talks about Universal Objects – clearly, this is the next step on from the Universal Museum, which he is is so fond of. Clearly now, we can have objects, that by association of name, if nothing else, can only be displayed in Universal Museums and are no longer valid for consideration for return to their original owners. As with the Universal Museum concept though, the real issue though, as I have mentioned before, is that the museums claiming to fill this role are entirely self appointed to it. No international committee chose them for this, no others were involved in assigning them to this undertaking.

From:
New York Times

November 27, 2012, 7:00 pm
A British Museum Treasure Will Visit the United States
By CAROL VOGEL

The Cyrus Cylinder — one of the most famous objects in the British Museum — will travel from its home in London to five museums in the United States next year.

Often referred to as “the first bill of human rights” because its inscription encourages freedom of worship throughout the Persian Empire, it is a small clay object — not quite nine inches long — bearing an account, in Babylonian cuneiform, by Cyrus, the King of Persia of his conquest of Babylon in 539 B.C. The cylinder was found in what was once Babylon, now Iraq, in 1879 during a British Museum excavation and has been on display at the museum ever since. It is one of the most famous objects to have survived from the ancient world.
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July 25, 2012

Looted treasures returned to Afghanistan by the UK

Posted at 1:14 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

More coverage of the artefacts returned to Afghanistan, after being seized in the UK.

From:
The Hindu

U.K. returns artefacts to Afghanistan
LONDON, July 20, 2012
Hasan Suroor

More than 800 historic artefacts — stolen from museums in Afghanistan some 20 years ago and smuggled abroad — have been returned to Kabul with help from the British Museum.

They include: a rare sculpture of Buddha, pieces of the Begram Ivories dating back to the 1st century B.C., Bronze Age carvings and medieval Islamic coins.
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July 23, 2012

850 looted treasures repatriated to Afghanistan from UK

Posted at 9:11 am in British Museum, Similar cases

More coverage of the ongoing attempts by the UK to return various Afghan artefacts, that have been seized by UK border officials. I’m unclear why the number of artefacts has altered significantly since the previous article I posted about it a few days ago.

From:
Independent

Looted treasures returned to Afghanistan by British Museum
Dalya Alberge
Thursday 19 July 2012

The British Museum, aided by British police and the UK Border Force, has helped return to Afghanistan hundreds of looted antiquities seized from smugglers, The Independent can reveal.

David Cameron will announce in Afghanistan today that 850 treasures have been repatriated, having been passed to the British Museum for safeguarding following their confiscation in Britain over the last two years.
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July 13, 2012

The British Museum is committed to loaning artefacts on a large scale – when it suits

Posted at 12:56 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The British Museum makes much of its commitment to loaning out artefacts (both in the UK & overseas) – but this always happens very much on their own terms. In many of the cases of disputed artefacts – the ones that people most want to see in their original locations, the museum rejects loans, because of the fact that they can’t guarantee the return.

In the past, Greece has offered to loan other artefacts of equal value to the Parthenon Marbles – a form of collateral, which ought to satisfy such worries, but the museum still won’t consider their requests for a long term (or for that matter any length of) loan of the sculptures.

If some of the Lewis Chessmen can go back on a long term loan (a good starting point for perhaps more to join them one day), then why can’t the same happen to the Elgin Marbles?

From:
Guardian

British Museum vows to help regional collections through tough times
Loans of works to regional museums are part of vital support to struggling sector, says director Neil MacGregor
Mark Brown, arts correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 4 July 2012 14.46 BST

The British Museum has said that is loaning works to UK museums at an unprecedented level to help them weather waters that are likely to be choppy for at least five years.

Launching the museum’s annual report, the museum’s director, Neil MacGregor, spoke of “new kind of engagement” with museums across the UK to develop the sense of there being “one national collection, one community of scholarship”.
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June 14, 2012

British Museum to permanently return some of Lewis Chessmen to Stornoway in 2014

Posted at 12:58 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

After briefly returning to Scotland in 2010, some of the Lewis Chessmen are going to return on a semi permanent basis to the island where they were discovered. It is unclear how much SNP leader Alex Salmond’s demands for their return have led to this decision & moreover, whether the British Museum is getting anything in return for the deal. I am very interested to find out more details of the exact loan agreement that has been made.

From:
BBC News

13 June 2012 Last updated at 15:20
Historic Lewis Chessmen returning to Western Isles

Six Lewis Chessmen are to be displayed long-term at a new museum on the Western Isles, where more than 90 of the historic pieces were found.

An agreement has been reached between Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) and the British Museum.
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April 18, 2012

The issues with free museum entry in the UK

Posted at 7:48 am in British Museum

As mentioned before, the British Museum enjoys pointing out that only in London can the Elgin Marbles be seen free of charge. This fact does of course rely on the huge subsidies by the British government, something that is getting more & more problematic in the face of other cutbacks in public spending.

From:
The Art Newspaper

Ten years of free entry, but can it last?
Why the political gain in the United Kingdom outweighs the economic cost
By Javier Pes. Museums, Issue 232, February 2012
Published online: 01 February 2012

Maintaining free entry to the UK’s national museums, as the secretary of state for culture Jeremy Hunt blogged in December on the tenth anniversary of its introduction, doesn’t come cheap: it costs around £44m a year to maintain free admission to national museums that previously charged, or around £354m in total since 1999. And yet he is happy to support it.

Why is the government backing a scheme launched in 2001 by the Labour government it routinely criticises for free-spending? The coalition is committed to reducing the country’s budget deficit, which peaked at more than 10% of gross domestic product before it came to power in 2010. Yet universal free entry, which Scotland and Wales also introduced in 2001, seems sacrosanct even though cutting the deficit is one of the coalition government’s mantras.
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March 29, 2012

Can travelling exhibitions be seen as a real alternative to restitution of artefacts?

Posted at 8:04 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Kwame Opoku has forwarded me a response to Neil MacGregor’s assertions that the artefacts should not be returned & instead substituted with travelling exhibitions to help share the artefacts.

From Kwame Opoku via email.

Travelling Exhibition as Alternative to Restitution? Comments on Suggestion by Director of the British Museum.

The Director of the British Museum has indeed a fertile mind that never tires of inventing new defences for the retention of looted artefacts of others in the major museums.

Once it became clear that the infamous Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums. (2002) and its principles were not as effective as the signatories thought, other approaches had to be considered.

One such approach is the “travelling exhibition”. This seems interesting and reasonable until one begins to consider what is being proposed. MacGregor is reported in Elginism to have told an audience at the University of Western Australia that due to globalisation, the concept of “travelling exhibitions” will become more relevant;
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March 22, 2012

British Museum director Neil MacGregor insists artefacts must not be returned

Posted at 8:33 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

At a lecture at UWA in Perth, British Museum director, Neil MacGregor insists that artefacts should not be returned by museums to their countries of origin. Instead, he proposes that travelling exhibitions will become more popular in future, allowing some of the artefacts in question to be exhibited around the world.

This idea sounds fine in practice – but it doesn’t help to correct the many perceived and actual injustices that led to large amounts of the artefacts being in museums such as his in the first place.

From:
WA Today

Museum boss defends keeping of precious artefacts
Jenna Clarke
October 27, 2011 – 5:57AM

Artefacts of historical and cultural significance which are displayed in major museums around the world should not be returned to their country of origin, according to art world leader Neil MacGregor.

During an address at the University of Western Australia this week the British Museum director came to the defence of museums around the world where indigenous and ancient objects are displayed.
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January 25, 2012

Efforts by British collector to rescue Afghan artefact

Posted at 2:02 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

An anonymous art dealer, is trying to purchase an artefact, believed to have been looted from Afghanistan, with the sole aim of returning it. Interestingly, the British Museum is getting involved – clearly repatriation is much more important for recently taken artefacts than it is for older ones (that are already in their collection).

From:
Guardian

Prized Afghan antiquity is rescued by British art dealer
Gandharan Buddha will be on show at the British Museum until mid-July
Dalya Alberge
Sunday 29 May 2011 00.04 BST

An anonymous art dealer passionate about Afghan heritage has teamed up with the British Museum in an effort to buy and repatriate a spectacular antiquity believed to have been looted from the Afghan national museum in Kabul during the 1990s.

The British dealer, who said he had a “very strong emotional attachment” to Afghanistan, resolved to buy the 2nd-century Gandharan Buddha after he recognised it in a photograph sent by a colleague in Japan. The sculpture, which had disappeared in the bloody civil war, had been bought by a Japanese collector.
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