April 14, 2006

Contested ownership & the British Museum

Posted at 12:55 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Following the Daily Telegraph’s article on Kiprop Lagat & the British Museum’s exhibition in Kenya, they look at some of the other artefacts in the British Museum that their original owners are requesting the return of. The British Museum comes up with the usual response that ownership is not a question – a decision that they have made without consulting the rightful owners in any of these cases.

Daily Telegraph

But other countries are keen to get their heritage back
By Amy Iggulden
(Filed: 13/04/2006)

The loudest and most regular claims for repatriation are made on behalf of the Elgin Marbles, the sculptures that fell into British hands at the start of the 19th century.

They were removed from Athens by the Earl of Elgin during the time of the Ottoman Empire and with the knowledge of the sultan.

In 1816, they were acquired by the British Museum and have been the subject of restitution claims by Greece for decades.

Two bark etchings from Australia roused similar emotions when they were sent on loan from the British Museum to Victoria two years ago.

An Aboriginal tribe secured an emergency order preventing the artefacts being returned, but this was overturned last year and they are now back in London.

Ownership of the Rosetta Stone, one of the museum’s most prized possessions, is also disputed. It was taken from Egypt by the French in 1799.

Against this background, the British Museum maintains that it is keeping such antiquities “for the citizens of the whole world”.

Jonathan King, of the British Museum, said: “This is not a question of ownership, it is a question of working with museums so that people can understand their past and rekindle old identities.”

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