The British side
What are the positions of the British Museum representatives concerning the matter of the return or the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.
Nowadays, the argumentation of the British around the matter of the return of the Parthenon Marbles in Greece focuses its interest on the catholicity of the monument and the prominence of the Greek history as part of the world heritage, whereas at the same time, the positions of the British Museum representatives are firm towards the possession of the marbles and the British ownership, after their buy by Lord Elgin.
At the official site of the British Museum, the basic British argument is the position that “the British Museum exists in order to popularize the cultural achievements all around the world, since the birth of human history, 2000 years ago until the reality of today..”. At the same time, the representatives of the museum underline the fact that the New Acropolis Museum neither can change the current regime, nor can change the British Museum belief that “the sculptures form part of the world heritage and go far beyond the narrow and restrictive cultural limits”
The British positions, “copy-pasted” by the Museum’s site in London are as following:
"The British Museum exists to tell the story of cultural achievement throughout the world, from the dawn of human history over two million years ago until the present day. The Museum is a unique resource for the world: the breadth and depth of its collection allows the world public to re-examine cultural identities and explore the complex network of interconnected world cultures. Within the context of this unparalleled collection, the Parthenon sculptures are an important representation of ancient Athenian civilisation. Each year millions of visitors, free of charge, admire the artistry of the sculptures and gain insights on how ancient Greece influenced, and was influenced by, the other civilisations that it encountered.
The Trustees of the British Museum warmly welcome the opening of the New Acropolis Museum which will allow the Parthenon sculptures that are in Athens to be appreciated against the backdrop of ancient Greek and Athenian history. The new museum, however, does not alter the Trustees’ view that the sculptures are part of everyone’s shared heritage and transcend cultural boundaries. The Trustees remain convinced that the current division allows different and complementary stories to be told about the surviving sculptures, highlighting their significance for world culture and affirming the universal legacy of Ancient Greece".
Saturday, 5th May 2007
In a meeting that took place in the British Ministry of Culture between two UNESCO representatives and the representatives of the Ministries of Culture of Greece and Britain under the subject of the Parthenon Marbles and their return to Greece, a representative of the British Museum characterized the meeting “cordial and friendly”, adding that “there was no action taken and that the positions of the British Museum, as far as the marbles are concerned, remain the ones mentioned in the announcement of the commissioners of the British Museum.
The Greek representative group consisted of the director of prehistoric and classical antiquities of the Ministry of Culture Mrs Helen Korka
and the law consultant of the same ministry, Mrs Irene Stamatoudi.
According to the wishes of the British side, the meeting took place with discretion and without publicity. The two representative groups were going to meet again to talk about the matter of the Parthenon Marbles on the 4th July, at the head of UNESCO in Paris.
Waiting for the inauguration
Hannah Boulton, who’s in charge of the Press Conference talks on behalf of its director Neil Mac Gregor before the official inauguration of the New Acropolis Museum. The “British Museum” welcomes warmly the New Acropolis Museum, it doesn’t stop believing though that the Parthenon Sculptures are part of the world heritage that is shared by the world citizens and go far beyond the restrictive cultural limits. The British Museum is convinced that the current separation allows different and complementary stories to be told about the surviving sculptures and confirms the world heritage of Greece.
The reason of existence of the British Museum is to present to an international public (6 million people visit it every year) exhibits which offer us a global approach of the cultures of our planet. The British Museum is a museum for the whole world. Its work and activities during the last years in London, Great Britain and all over the world support its primary mission and contribute to the success of its 250 years of history”.
Three month lending. Before the inauguration
Waiting for the inauguration in Athens, the public relations director of the British Museum, Hannah Boulton
, talks again at SKAI channel and sets her own counter-proposal for the definite return of the Parthenon Marbles. She expresses her view about a cultural exchange program in cooperation with the British Museum and suggests that Greece should be lent the sculptures for three months, as long as the Greek Government admits that they belong to the British Museum and reassures their safe transportation into our country.
Former Minister of Culture
The answer of the Greek side to the above suggestion was direct. “We are glad that the British Museum- obviously on the occasion of the inauguration of the New Acropolis Museum- seems to wish starting a basic dialogue about the return of the Parthenon Marbles. Our government though, just like any other Greek government would do in such a case is obliged to turn down this proposal…This is because its acceptance would be equal to the lawfulness of the removal and transportation of the sculptures as well as the partition of the monument 207 years ago”,
replied on the matter the Minister of Culture Antonis Samaras.
“We are talking about a very old story!”. At the inauguration.
At the New Acropolis Museum inauguration, the two ambassadors of the British Museum, the member of the board of directors, Bonny Grir and the curator of the department of Greek and Roman antiquities, Lesley Featon claim at an interview given at the PressTime that “London’s pride is injured, since the marbles’ return to Greece was never officially asked”.
“As you know, we are on the 21st century. Things are different. The marbles do not belong to you only. They consist the heritage of all humanity. That’s why they are found in the British Museum. Besides, Greece never officially asked for them”, they state. At the same time, on the question of journalists “If you were told that the Greek Government is planning to start legal proceedings about the matter, how you would react”, Mrs Featon answered: “This would be quite interesting. Very interesting! I would really like to see it, in order to see how the matter would end because we shouldn’t forget that it’s a very old story! For example, let’s not forget the profession of the man who carried the sculptures to London. Besides, there is the moral and legal right of property. Many people pretend to the moral right. But only the British Museum has the legal right. Elgin used to be the English ambassador at the time, to the Ottoman Empire though…”
The “lending” proposal. “The dialogue could start”.
In the same interview, the two ambassadors of the British Museum were called to comment the suggestion of Antonis Samaras about the lending. “It’s a good suggestion…The dialogue could start, based on such a proposal. But there isn’t any case of permanent return. Maybe the lending between the two museums could work. But not on a permanent basis. Besides, if a solution could be found, this would only be achieved through dialogue and after a very long time. These are not matters that can be solved at once”. “As far as the possibility of a permanent lending is concerned”,
the ambassadors were both equally clear. “There’s absolutely no case. However, Mr Mac Gregor is the most qualified to discuss the matter”.