Dr Tom Flynn was one of the speakers at the London Colloquy on the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, where, rather than speaking about the reasons for returning the Parthenon Sculptures, he confronted one of the main arguments given by the British Museum for keeping them here – that of the Universal Museum.
The Universal Museum
by Dr. Tom Flynn
Well, you should be ashamed of yourselves, assembling here in a sinister conspiracy to dismantle our Universal Museums, to rob us of the cultural treasures that have contributed so much to the legacy of the European Enlightenment. Just think for a moment of the implications of what you’re doing — if you have your way the great cultural institutions of Europe and North America — the British Museum, the Louvre in Paris, The Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago — these noble collections will be dispersed to the far corners of the earth, delivered into the hands of nations and cultures driven by rabid nationalism who lack the curatorial skills and the museological expertise to care for their material heritage. If you succeed, our classical temples to world culture will stand empty or will be turned into multiplex cinemas, football stadiums or basketball courts. The reputation of this once proud nation will be damaged beyond repair, tourism will cease, and as a people we will be forever impoverished.
It’s ridiculous isn’t it? I’m exaggerating to make a point, but that is essentially the message that is being circulated by those striving to resist the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. If the British Museum were to accede to the calls for return, the fabled floodgates would open, leading to a veritable deluge of repatriation requests. It would be a slippery slope that would lead inexorably to a mass exodus of objects, a wholesale denuding, a great emptying, a hollowing out. Or would it?
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