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More on the proposed Parthenon Sculptures (return to Greece) bill

Further coverage of the Parthenon Sculptures (Return to Greece) bill [1], currently presented to the UK Parliament.

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum [2]

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum

From:
Observer [3]

UK Parliament Pushes Bill to Return Elgin Marbles to Greece
By Alanna Martinez
07/15/16 9:08am

For 200 years there’s been squabble over who rightfully owns the world famous Elgin Marbles: the British Museum or Greece? Now, even Brits themselves are pretty sure the answer is “not us.”

The sculptures were taken (or stolen, depending who you ask) from the Parthenon between 1801 and 1805 by Lord Elgin, British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and in 1816 they were purchased by the British Museum following parliamentary approval. Earlier this week, a new bill proposed by members of parliament could transfer ownership of the sculptures back to Greece on the 200th anniversary of Britain’s controversial acquisition of the artifacts, reports the Independent.

“These magnificent artifacts were improperly dragged and sawn off the remains of the Parthenon,” said MP Mark Williams in a statement. Williams presented the bill on July 11 with 11 other MPs across party lines. “This Bill proposes that the Parliament should annul what it did 200 years ago….It’s time we engaged in a gracious act. To put right right a 200-year wrong.”

The legislation also stands to impact future relations with neighboring countries following Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union on June 23. Andrew George, chair of the British Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, sees repatriation as an opportunity to foster good relationships.

“If we are about the negotiate a decent trade deal with our European friends, the last thing we want to do is to show the kind of raspberries and two-fingers that [Nigel] Farage was displaying in the European Parliament the other day,” George told the Independent. “And there could be no better demonstration of that generosity and graciousness than to do what would be the right thing by the Greeks.”

Former U.K. prime minister David Cameron has been a major hurdle in repatriation efforts in recent years. The leader opposed returning the sculptures, and in 2011 went so far as to jokingly say Britain wouldn’t “lose its marbles” during a statement on bailing out the Greek economy.

The British Museum has also taken a firm stance against returning the sculptures to Greece, where they would be joined with the other half of the surviving Parthenon artifacts currently in the collection of the Acropolis Museum. A statement on the museum’s website reads:

The Parthenon sculptures in London are an important representation of ancient Athenian civilization in the context of world history…The Trustees are convinced that the current division [of the sculptures] allows different and complementary stories to be told about the surviving sculptures, highlighting their significance within world culture and affirming the place of Ancient Greece among the great cultures of the world.

However, recent public surveys by the Times of London and market research group Ipsos-Mori have indicated that a majority of the British public favors repatriation.

From:
Museums Association [4]

MPs table bill to return Parthenon Sculptures to Greece
Patrick Steel
13.07.2016

This week a cross-party group of MPs, led by Mark Williams, tabled the Parthenon Sculptures (Return to Greece) Bill, calling for a change in the law to allow the British Museum to transfer ownership of the marbles to Greece.

The Private Members’ Bill was presented to Parliament on Monday by Mark Williams, and was supported by Roger Gale, Margaret Ferrier, Jeremy Lefroy, Mary Glindon, Hywel Williams, and Liz Saville Roberts.

Williams said: “If there had been a justification for taking these sculptures into safe keeping in the UK in the early 1800s that moment has now long passed. These magnificent artefacts were improperly dragged and sawn off the remains of the Parthenon.

“Indeed they have hardly been in safe keeping; nearly lost altogether on their journey back; and damaged by inept management while in the British Museum.

“This Bill proposes that Parliament should annul what it did 200 years ago. In 1816 Parliament effectively state-sanctioned the improper acquisition of these impressive and important sculptures from Greece. It’s time we engaged in a gracious act. To put right a 200 year wrong.”

A British Museum spokeswoman said: “The British Museum tells the story of cultural achievement throughout the world, from the dawn of human history over two million years ago until the present day. The Parthenon Sculptures are a significant part of that story.

“The museum is a unique resource for the world: the breadth and depth of its collection allows a world-wide public to re-examine cultural identities and explore the complex network of interconnected human cultures.

“The trustees lend extensively all over the world and over two million objects from the collection are available to study online. The Parthenon Sculptures are a vital element in this interconnected world collection. They are a part of the world’s shared heritage and transcend political boundaries.

“The Acropolis Museum allows the Parthenon sculptures that are in Athens (approximately half of what survive from antiquity) to be appreciated against the backdrop of ancient Greek and Athenian history.

“The Parthenon sculptures in London are an important representation of ancient Athenian civilisation in the context of world history.

“Each year millions of visitors, free of charge, admire the artistry of the sculptures and gain insight into how ancient Greece influenced – and was influenced by – the other civilisations that it encountered.”

The Bill will be read a second time on 20 January 2017.

From:
Ancient Origins [5]

15 July, 2016 – 21:41
Mark Miller
Controversy Reignites as British MPs Propose Finally Returning Ancient Parthenon Marbles to Greece

When the British Empire ruled much of the world, many artifacts and artworks, including reliefs and statues from the Parthenon in Athens known as the Elgin Marbles, were taken to Britain. For years Greece has been trying to get those sculptures back, saying they are an important part of the country’s heritage. Could there be a glimmer of hope that the marbles will return to their homeland?

A group of British members of Parliament from several political parties has proposed returning the statues to Greece. The move came on July 11, the 200 th anniversary of the British government’s paying the Greek government for them.

Thomas Bruce, the Earl of Elgin, had taken them some years earlier when he was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803. He said he got permission from the Ottomans to take the artworks.

Today, the Parthenon sculptures remain some of the most controversial objects in the British Museum, with some arguing for the repatriation of the artifacts to Greece, and others arguing that the sculptures ought to remain in London. Similarly, opinion is divided regarding Lord Elgin. For some he was the savior of the endangered Parthenon sculptures, while to others he was a looter and pillager of Greek antiquities.

Between 1930 and 1940, the Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum were cleaned with wire brush and acid, causing permanent damage of their ancient surface. In 1983, Melina Mercouri, Minister of Culture for Greece, requested the return of the sculptures, and the debate over their return has raged ever since.

The controversy around the Parthenon marbles is just one among many concerning artifacts the British took—some say stole—during their years of conquest.

A story from the Guardian in November 2015 states: “For anyone with a liberal bone in their body, a walk around the British Museum is an uncomfortable experience. The Parthenon marbles and the Rosetta stone are only the best known examples of wonders gained by plunder. The Chinese government claims the museum holds 23,000 artefacts looted in the 19th century from Beijing alone.”

The article says the only contested object Britain has returned is the Stone of Scone to Scotland, which did not require a change of governmental ownership. The article cautions against beginning to repatriate artifacts because it might start an international movement, and, the author says, sometimes objects are better cared for in the world’s major museums.

The Parthenon marbles date back some 2,500 years. The Parthenon was one of ancient Greece’s most important temples, dedicated to the city’s patroness, the goddess Athena. Over the millennia, the structure was converted into a Christian church by the Byzantines, and subsequently into a mosque by the Turks. The Turks also used the Parthenon as a gunpowder storage magazine, which blew up during the Venetian siege of the city in 1687.

The British Museum, in a statement defending its ownership of the Parthenon marbles, says 65 percent of the sculptures survived the various assaults on the temple over the years. The majority are in the Acropolis Museum in Athens and in the British Museum in London, about 30 percent in each place. The remaining 40 percent are in other museums in Europe, including the Vatican, the Louvre and museums in Copenhagen, Vienna, Würzburg and Munich. The stunning new Acropolis Museum had been purpose-built to house the Parthenon marbles, but now visitors see mostly plaster casts.

The British Museum’s statement says: “The Parthenon sculptures in London are an important representation of ancient Athenian civilisation in the context of world history. Each year millions of visitors, free of charge, admire the artistry of the sculptures and gain insight into how ancient Greece influenced – and was influenced by – the other civilisations that it encountered.”

The official stance of the Greek government, as expressed by Hellenic Republic President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in October 2015, is that the marbles only proper place is in Greece.

A group of 12 MPs, including Mark Williams, agrees. He told the Independent :

“These magnificent artefacts were improperly dragged and sawn off the remains of the Parthenon. This Bill proposes that the Parliament should annul what it did 200 years ago. In 1816 Parliament effectively state-sanctioned the improper acquisition of these impressive and important sculptures from Greece. It’s time we engaged in a gracious act. To put right a 200-year wrong.”

Polls have found that British people who are aware of the controversy overwhelmingly agree: The marbles should go back to Greece.