Welcome to the site of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. These pages contain detailed information on the Parthenon (Elgin) Marbles, together with the case for their return to Athens, Greece. If you would like to find out about the various ways to get involved with the campaign, or simply to learn more about the subject, then please read on.
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Nadine Gordimer, supporter for the reunfication of the sculptures from Parthenon, has died. The BCRPM pay tribute to this great literary writer by reflecting on her preface to Christopher Hitchen's third edition book 'The Parthenon Marbles:the case for the reunification'.
BBC Radio 4 on Frontrow also has a great tribute to Nadine, a wonderful person and gifted writer. She wrote more than 30 books and jointly won 1974's Booker Prize for The Conservationist and was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991. Recognised as one of the literary world's most powerful voices against apartheid, she was also a firm supporter for the reunifcation of the Parthenon Marbles.
Her preface in Christopher Hitchen's third editon book The Parthenon Marbles:the case for the reunification which was launched in London in 2008 meant a great deal to founder of the BCRPM, Eleni Cubitt. This edition of the book is dedicated to Mrs Cubitt's husband, the late James Cubitt, a British architect that met with Melina Mercouri in the early 80's and felt very strongly about the campaign becoming as much a British concern as it was for Greece or the world.
Nadine begins her preface with:"How parts of the Parthenon frieze came to be in England in the first place is an example of imperial arrogance manifest in marble.'Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set' - not content with claiming sovereignty over other peoples' countries, the British Empire appropriated the art in which ethos, history, religious mythology, the fundament of the people is inbued."
"Resitution now, in the twenty-first century, is on wider (appropiately) than legal grounds, grounds of dishonesty in colonialism justified as the acquisition of art."
Nadine, like Christopher and many others too could not understand why there was (including, until recently British Museum literature) reference to these sculptures as the 'Elgin Marbles'.
"They are not and never were Lord Elgin's marbles; that is not their provenance."
Nadine was equally mistified by the British Museum's claim that as world cultural objects they are best represented in the British Museum and that in fact 'more people' can see them there.
"In terms of origin", Nadine writes," the claim is absolute: they belong to Greece."
She follows on "But as representative of the culture of ancient Greece, as the genisis of the ideal of humanism and beauty in art, there is also the argument that the Parthenon frieze belongs to world culture, to all of us who even unknowingly derive something of our democratic aesthetic from it. From that argument derives another: Where in the world should such art, universally 'owned' in the sense of human development, be displayed? The answer 'the British Museum in London' harks back to the relic of the empire, the assumption that Britain is the mecca of the world: that sections of the Parthenon frieze shown there can be seen by more people, from more parts of the globe,than is poissible anywhere else."
She states that without knowing the visitor numbers of the two museums, the Acropolis Museum in Athens and the Parthenon Gallery in the British Museum - that in fact neither of these two museums are perfectly placed for the world' population to have a 'casual Sunday afternoon cultural outing.'
She concludes: "They belong: they are are the DNA, in art, of the people of Greece. They also belong, as they do, to all of us who have inherited such evidence of human creativity as development, and there is no site in our world where the direct experience of seeing them is achievable for everyone, where else should they be but where they were created?"
Nadine Gortimer also tackled that great British Museum argument of the 'floodgates'. She felt that this argument denies the purpose of art museums: 'to further appreciation of the universality in diversity of art as profound human expression, in different versions, by different peoples occupying varied envirinments in past and present times."
She goes on to stress 'objects complete in themselves', are not all plundered, many have been legally purchased and these would continue to be honourably retaimed by foreign museums. Nadine was determined to highlight the 'magnificent coherence', of the sculptures from the Parthenon, when they are shown in their rightful place, in Athens. She was unhappy with the British Museum's continued need to justify the retention of the sculptures in London: "as art and in its meaning as a unit, denied and destroyed".
And Nadine Gordimer concludes in her preface:"The Parthenon Gallery in the new Acropolis Museum provides a sweep of contiguous space for the 106-metre-long Panathenaic Procession as it never could be seen anywhere else in the world, facing the Parthenon itself high on the Sacred Rock." And as to the gaps in the magnificent frieze that visitors to the new Acropolis Museum see filled by the casts Greece had to buy from the British Museum..... "they are there to be filled by an honourable return of the missing parts from the British Museum. Reverence - and justice - demand this."
The British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, thank Nadie Gordimer for her thought provoking preface and wish her family to know that she will always be remembered as a friend and eternally respected for her words.
Dear BCRPM, this is marvellous.
What a great weekend, I am reading St Clair’s overview with great interest.
Good to hear about a campaign from Greece ‘REturn, REstore and REstart’! I thank you for forwarding it to me, because until now although so committed.... sometimes at this age…… I had been asked by Graham Binns (Chairman of the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles) to develop my public debate speech of 11 November 1985 at Trinity and All Saints University (college ) against the 7th Earl of Elgin, into an article for publication. Publishing the article in December 1997, being thanked for it by Melina Mercouri, being welcomed in the Foundation in Athens by Jules Dassin (Melina’s widower) who asked me to keep writing – was memorable. Also invited to the Televised programme at the Ealing studios then in 1999 by the Minister of Culture for the Olympic committee to join the pre-Olympic games preparation Committee as the expert on culture, developing the article based on my 1996/7 research which is now, on the websites of the BCRPM and Melina Mercouri Foundation...
After all that hope and commitment, I must admit I am overjoyed that with some posters and a little help from my friends, I could lend my support for the 5th anniversary of the Acropolis Museum this June, by visiting the British Museum… on an important mission.
Thank you also for your input on cycling and the sculptures from the Parthenon. Joy to be able to combine my love of cycling, the Tour de France in Yorkshire and my commitment to the campaign for the reunification of the sculptures!
Efficient communications, devotion to the cause : Graham Binns, Melina Mercouri , Jules Dassin, the Olympic committee , (not to mention the support of My MP G Mulholland) and more. I am glad that even from #Yorkshire ( where the best things do happen!) I can be relied upon to be used in this worthy CAUSE.
Athens International Conference, 26 June 2014
'PARTHENON. The Integrity of a Synbolic Monument. The Role of the Citizen. An International Campaign' organised by the Marianna Vardinoyannis Foundation in associatuon with the Melina Mercouri Foundation
William St Clair
Author of Lord Elgin and the Marbles revised edition 1998, The Elgin Marbles, Questions of Stewardship and Accountability, 1999, That Greece Might Still Be Free, the Philhellenes in the War of Independence, new edition in open access, 2008, and other works. He is Senior Research Fellow at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, and of the Centre for History and Economics, Cambridge and Harvard.His essay on 'Looking at the Acropolis of Athens from Modern Times to Antiquity' will be published later in the summer.
First let me say how much I feel honoured and delighted to have been invited and to have the opportunity of offering some ideas. Many people here know far more than I do and I have to be severely selective, but I hope to pick out points that may be relevant to question of what is best to do now.
With written records on the Acropolis of Athens back to Homer and archaeological evidence even earlier, there is no site in the world in which the long view is so long, the ways of seeing so different, the stories told and the claims to legitimacy so varied, and the evidence available for building an understanding so complete.
This experience, that is retrievable, and therefore transferrable, is, I would say, an inheritance as precious as the marble.
In that long history, the question of return is quite recent, just over two hundred years, but in terms of modern notions of cultural property, with only a few scattered predecessors, it covers the whole age, and provides the paradigm for all the arguments.
I can begin with ideas based on legality
The cartoon above, that shows the Ottoman governor of the Acropolis remonstrating with Elgin is from 1824, but the complaints began earlier, with doubts being cast on the legitimacy of the firman, the letter from the highest official in the Ottoman government writing in the name of the Sultan.
There has been much writing about the legal force of this document. But there are risks in applying present day law and modern legal concepts to historical situations in which very different laws and customs applied. The reason Elgin needed the Sultan's permission was that the Acropolis was a military fortress. There are other firmans in which the Sultan allowed removals of antiquities from fortresses, that I have seen. And it is worth recalling that international law included right of conquest as well as treaty transfer at least until the late nineteenth century. If you look at the website of the British Royal family you will see that it includes both as the legal foundation for its historical legitimacy. As far as the Acropolis is concerned, we have well documented records of legal transfer back to 1205 and probably earlier. But my main point is this. The whole approach of trying to build a legal case is backward looking. So I would say it would be better to look forward from the historical moment in which we find ourselves
Another set of arguments relate to claims of Hellenic continuity. I was among those lucky enough to be invited to meet Melina Mercouri when she came to London as Minister of Culture in 1986. I was quite seduced, but although I was in favour of return, I could not go along with her nationalist myth-making, such the story she told of the Greeks at the time of the Revolution offering to share their bullets with the Turks if they would spare the Parthenon. And that remains my view. We cannot honour classical Athens by disregarding, setting aside, or compromising with their intellectual achievements, that include separating a search for truth about the past from telling stories about the past to serve the present.
We should, I suggest, be wary of using antiquities for 'nation-building' that can easily slip into myth making. As Plato and Socrates knew, the aspiration to 'make the mute stones speak' is an illusion. The stones can only speak when some human being speaks on their behalf. And questions therefore arise about who deserves to be accorded that privilege, and on what intellectual, including historical, authority do the offered stories rest?
It was on the same trip to London that Ms Mercouri made her famous remark, 'There are no Elgin Marbles!' She was picking up on a point of language that the act of re-naming can be an appropriation, an annexation, and an attempt at legitimation of a new status. Since Mercouri's speech, the phrase 'Elgin Marbles' has become politically incorrect, and is now seldom heard.
However, the phrase 'The Sculptures of the Parthenon', which has replaced it, is also unsatisfactory. It too tends to legitimate a particular way of seeing, namely, that the sculptural components of the ancient buildings of the Acropolis are of greater value than the architecture of which they formed a part, that the buildings are more important than the site, and that they can be separated from the social and cultural purposes to which they were put. The phrase, 'The Sculptures of the Parthenon', that rides on nineteenth century western romantic notion of autonomous 'works of art', and its conceptual hierarchies, itself concedes much to the opponents of return. The current phrase would therefore be only partially corrected if it were modified to, say, 'The Sculptures from the Parthenon.'
It is well know that in the ancient authors, the Parthenon is seldom mentioned. In ancient times, from Homer to Julian, it is the Acropolis that is appealed to, whether to warn, to shame, to educate, or to celebrate. And it is the whole visible Acropolis rock, slopes and summit, buildings and freestanding statues and dedications, myth and history, the natural as much as the man-made.
The collection of antiquities brought from the Acropolis by Elgin included substantial pieces of all four of the classical buildings on the Acropolis summit, and of the Monument of Thrassylos on the south slope. I took a few photographs in the British Museum in preparation for this occasion.
Here is part of a Parthenon capital with a column drum that comes from elsewhere and does not fit.
It has had to be replaced on the building by a replica
And part of the Erechtheion
And of the Nike temple
So what arguments are deployed by upholders of status quo, of whom, incidentally there are vanishingly few in the UK? The old 'rescue and stewardship' that was in standard use from Elgin's day until the late 1990s has been largely withdrawn from, rendered unsustainable by the revelations of the damage done to the Marbles in the 1930s, and by the even more damaging revelations of the extent of the officially sanctioned systematic misleading of the public and scholarly world, and of the long-persisted-in illegalities. It was hurriedly replaced by a newly invented justification, called the 'universal' or 'encyclopedic' museum, and the labels have been altered to fit.
The separated parts of the frieze in London and Athens, we are now told in a phrase dreamed up by some PR guru or spin doctor, tell 'different but complementary stories.' And in support of this new narrative we see attempts to downplay classical Hellas. Who would have guessed that the main labels in the Parthenon gallery would now refer to Persia? Including the Cyrus cylinder that is being paraded both on this label and round the world's museums as a 'declaration of human rights'.
What we are seeing here is a new danger in addition to the others mentioned so far, a kind of cultural relativism allied with a commercial consumerism. Essentially the thought seems to be 'tell the punters what they want to hear', a modern form of myth-making as damaging as the nationalism of Melina Mercouri.
And, since UNESCO are here, this may be the moment to make a wider point. The Venice Charter, now half a century old, has provided a framework for an intergenerational ethics on the conservation of sites and monuments, essentially that it is wrong to alter the built heritage to serve the ideological aims of the present. What we lack, and increasingly need, is a code of ethics that subjects the stories that are officially invented and presented to make the mute stones speak to a similar set of ethical limitations.
So how should the claim now be presented? As it happens we now have the documents for the first claim for return made in 1835 immediately after independence.
It is notable that the claim, for the Nike temple friezes, was presented in terms of what was best for the monument, for an anastelosis.
In my view that is how the claim should now be presented in the re-launch. What is best for the monument, for viewers, and for the scholarly world, and for the visitor experience, categories that coincide and reinforce one another. And by the monument here I mean the whole Acropolis.
In support of the claim I would recommend preparing a clear statement, that is forward looking and drafted to show that the claim is intended to meet the needs and opportunities of today and the future. It should celebrate the achievement of classical Hellas and Athens in particular, emphasising its historical uniqueness. Although Hellas was influenced by its neighbours, and influenced them, as nobody doubts, it is historically misleading, as well as consumerist, to imply that it was just one civilization among many.
In Athens for the relaunch I would recommend a studied attempt to avoid condescending to visitors, as is already well under way in the excellent labels here. The public deserve the best. And they are interested in the ideas not just the stones, and in the most up to date knowledge. They would, in my view, prefer to be told that Athens was one of - at the last count - forty four Hellenic cities that had forms of democratic institutions and was not the first- than that it was 'the cradle of democracy.' And the Acropolis Museum can develop further its modern information technology to present alternatives and imagined reconstructions as is already happening
These are not guidance of the 'some say this, some say that' type that, as we see elsewhere, open the way both to old myth-making and to modern cultural relativism and consumerism. They are dynamic attempts to enable visitors to comprehend alternatives where there is room for genuine debate within the traditions of science and evidence-based humanities that our predecessors revived from ancient Hellas. One of the main roles of the ancient Acropolis was to serve as an education in stone, a paideia, for citizens and visitors. You have the opportunity to set out an updated vision of that ideal in the relaunch documents and, as the pieces are returned, to make it ever more real.
Dr Christopher Stockdale is no stranger to pushing his physical limits to do his bit for the campaign to reunite the sculptures of the Parthenon. He swam for the Parthenon marbles from Delos to Paros on 01 July 2000 and on 15 April 2005 he rode his bicycle from the courtyard of the British Museum in central London to the Parthenon in Athens.
“Bottom line is you work hard, you have to get up and be motivated. Your body and the weather conditions bring their limitations to your own determination. Just 150 miles into France I had an awful accident and hurt my shoulder bruised my thigh. That injury and problems with my front wheel made it a challenging ride in more ways than one!” Concludes Dr Stockdale.
It started on 15 April 2005 with an early, 5:48 am train from the Midlands which arrived into Marylebone Station at 7:36 am. A short taxi ride with Margaret , 3 panniers and the bicycle took Chris and Margaret to Bloomsbury and the British Museum where Eleni Cubitt came to meet them at Starbucks for coffee and blueberry muffins.
Chris had not told Eleni what he was going to do be doing so as not to make her anxious but judging by the expression on her face in the photo, she was worried, not because she did not believe in Chris’ outstanding abilities but because she was very fond of him.
Chris mentions that his inspiration came from Anne Mustoe and the start of the journey was uneventful as was the first 150 miles in France. Then disaster, Chris’ front wheel locked into a tram line just outside Rimes and he went headlong over his bicycle causing damage to his shoulder. It rained every day in France and the terrain plus his injury made the cycling tedious.
Memorable moments where plentiful including crossing the St Bernard pass…. It was still snowing. The cycle ride down to Aosta was another big challenge, Chris was suffering from hypothermia, he couldn’t remember where he was, he stopped in what he thought was a bar but in fact it was a tire shop. His front wheel was in need of repair and Carlo took this in hand and helpful souls took Chris in, got him to change out of his wet clothes, parked him by a warm log fire and plied him with strong coffee. Carlo Aribone with his dog Oliver rebuilt Chris’ front wheel and did such a great job that he also took away any uncertainty Chris had travelled with since his accident back in France.
Milan, Bologna, all flashed by then he crossed at Brindisi by ferry to Patras and he regrets not having made the detour to Messolonghito pay tribute to Byron but there might be another time…
Once in Greece he tried the motorway, soon to realise this was going to be another hazard so he took the old the national road but when the two join up, he felt his life was not in his hands. As if by miracle he made it, riding into Plaka, feeling on top of the world…. Then there was the Acropolis. At the entrance gate he tried to tell the ticket officer that he had been riding his bicycle for weeks and for the campaign of the Parthenon Marbles, the man looked him up and down and simply said “Would you like a brochure?”. Chris did take this brochure and made it up the 39 marble steps too, as a happy bedraggled soul he held his bicycle over his head in front of the Parthenon.
Cycle run accomplished in 3 weeks, 3 days, 5 hours and 26 minutes! Chis had cycled a total of just under 2,000 miles, from 9 am to 4 pm daily, about 60-80 miles per day with a few rest days, some enforced as a result of his fall and injury in France. He fondly remembers the wonderful people en route, the many places that the bicycle, a 50th birthday present - Greg Lemond Alpe’d'huez - was stored, the great sense of achievement at the end.
A wonderful post cycle reception was organised in Athens by Elena Korka for the Ministry of Culture.
Up to two million fans are expected on the streets of Yorkshire this weekend for the start of the 2014 Tour de France.
The three-week stage race is returning to England for the first time since 2007, with two stages in Yorkshire and a third finishing in London on Monday.
The 101st edition of the 2,277-mile, 21-stage race ends in Paris on 27 July2014. More here
But what has cycling got to do with the sculptures of the Parthenon? Good question and not sure what the ancients may have made of our campaigning to reunite the sculptures of the Parthenon in the Acropolis Museum.....But three very different and very dedicated individuals, share their love of cycling with their love for this peerless work of art.
Currently the Parthenon marbles are mainly divided between two great museums - the British Museum, globally recognised as THE museum of the world not just in Britain but globally and the relatively new Acropolis Museum (this June was this museum's 5th anniversary) in Athens, Greece - where the sculptures can be seen in the context of the Parthenon itself.
Decades of campaigning and centuries of requests to do the 'right' thing and retun these fragmented sculptures has resulted in not a great more than lots of reasons why the British Museum cannot do the right thing - mainly that in the BM, these sculptures tell their story in the context of world history and that allowing them to join their other halves, would set a precedent. Both arguments are rather sad as it is not down to a few to decide how millions of museum visitors 'see' history and the floogates would not open as the sculptures are the only work of art fragmented in this fashion and the only work of art that has come from a building, a UNESCO world heritage site that still stands.
So what makes complete sense and what the majority of the public feel would be the right thing to do, the tiny but powerful minority can decide to ignore and now have announced that some of these sculptures will be displayed in a new exhibition, to show once again that they can be seen in different contexts.
Back to cycling. Healthy past time for many (of all ages) and a leading sport for many more. But how did three individuals bring cycling into the campaign for the reunification?
We have to start with the outstanding Dr Christopher Stockdale, a long serving BCRPM member, inspired by Anne Mustoe. He bravely cycled from the courtyard of the British Museum on 15 April 2005 to the foot of the Acropolis in Athens and made his way with his bike all the way to the Parthenon. It took Chris 3 weeks, 3 days, 5 hours and 26.6 minutes to complete this cycle. More on this story here.
On Tuesday 01 July, Dr Luca Lo Sicco embarked on his bicycle, also from the British Museum and is making his way across Europe and then will cross from Italy to Greece by ferry to continue on his way to the Acropolis Museum, where he will donate his bicycle to the museum! Professor Pandermalis, President of the Acropolis Museum sent him a letter and is looking forward to Luca's arrival in Athens.
In the July 2nd edition of the Yorkshire Post Life & Style Magazine, an article about a formidable octagenerian, Michelle Patrax Evans. Also a keen cyclist, living in Leeds looking forward to this year's tour de France and passionate about the sculptures of the Parthenon.
Before her interview with journalist Sarah Freeman, Michelle frantically made contact to ask, was cycling a part of the sculptures?
Cannot describe her delighted response when we did inform Michelle that indeed Dr Chris Stockdale had made an amazing trip in 2005 before the Acropolis Museum had opened and that Luca, a University lecturer living in Britain was embarking on the same journey on the 1st of July this year, celebrating the Acropolis Museum's 5th year since it officially opened in June 2009.
Below a supportive note from Gail Lawton of Westwood Care to Michelle
Sent: Friday, July 04, 2014 8:37 AM
Subject: RE: YP Life & Style Coverage
Good morning Michelle
I hope you're well.
I am sure your article will inspire many people to find out more about the Parthenon Marbles. I am a great believer that artefacts should remain where they were meant to be, so I wish you and your supporters every success.
I hope you very much enjoy Le Tour this weekend and find a good spot to view the race! The atmosphere will be amazing.
Have a wonderful weekend.
........................................................Westward Care Ltd
Head Office, Leeds
PARTHENON SCULPTURES AS EXEMPLARS OF REPRESENTATION OF THE HUMAN BODY
The British Museum plans to break up its collection of sculptures from the Parthenon, albeit temporarily, to illustrate a major but separate exhibition on the development by the ancient Greeks of representation of the human form.
Eddie O'Hara, chairman of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles comments: "This blows a hole in the already threadbare justification of the British Museum for their failure to return these sculptures to Athens to be reunified with their counterparts, in some cases literally their over halves of pieces carved from the same block.
The British Museum argues that the Parthenon sculptures are an essential element in their encyclopaedic narrative of world art and culture. There is a specious support for this if the collection is kept together, albeit displayed in a configuration which does little justice to their original disposition on the Parthenon. The BCRPM however has always argued (1) that this collection of sculptures can only make sense in conjunction with the rest of the sculptures in Athens, (2) that the onus of justification is on NOT REUNIFYING them in Athens where they were created and whence they were removed in dubious circumstances, and (3) that in the British Museum's narrative they are MERE EXEMPLARS for which the Greek government has offered to provide alternative exemplars.
Now the BM is preparing to break up the collection to use some of them as, guess what? EXEMPLARS in a totally separate narrative.
Come off it, British Museum. Do the right thing. Do what opinion poll after opinion poll supports. Return to Athens the Parthenon sculptures in your collection. If you do it now the BCRPM is sure that the Greek government will provide you with adequate EXEMPLARS for your new exhibition".
Professor Anthony Snodgrass, Honorary President of BCRPM added:
"No doubt the sculptures will be carefully monitored, for the reaction of the marble to this change in microclimate - an excellent small-scale rehearsal for the much bigger move that they will one day have to make."
About The British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (BCRPM)
A group of British people who having considered the case for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles strongly support it and wish to campaign to achieve it. James Cubitt, a distinguished British architect, met with Melina Mercouri and Jules Dassin before he formed the BCRPM to campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to their rightful home in Athens. The Committee was set up in 1983 under the chairmanship of internationally renowned and universally respected Robert Browning, Emeritus Professor of Greek at the University of London. Then inveterate and accomplished, writerGraham Binns took over as Chairman from 1997-2002, followed 2002-2010 by erudite Professor Anthony Snodgrass, Fellow of the British Academy, Professor Emeritus of Classical Archaeology, University of Cambridge. Currently, former MP Eddie O’Hara has taken on the role.Eddie O’Hara studied Literae Humaniores at Magdalen College, Oxford and has been General Rapporteur for the Cultural Heritage and Museums Rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.For more information, visit: www.parthenonuk.com.
Two international Colloquy’s have been organised recently, the first in June 2012 in London, followed by a second in Sydney Australia in November 2013. Both Colloquy’s were organised in conjunction with three campaigning organizations for the Parthenon Marbles, theBritish Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (BCRPM), the American Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, Inc. (ACRPS) and the International Organizing Committee – Australia – for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles, Inc. (IOC-A-RPM).
Two Greek foundations, the Marianna Vardinoyannis Foundation in collaboration with the Melina Mercouri Foundation, yesterday Thursday 26 June 2014, in Athens, launched a new campaign for the reunification of the Parthenon sculptures: Return The Marbles, Restore Parthenon, Restart History.
The conference at the superlative Acropolis Museum, which took place on Thursday 26 June 2014, was introduced by Marianna Vardinoyannis, the Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO and president of the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation, moderated by erudite journalist Pavlos Tsimas. The Greek Minister of Culture, Konstantinos Tasoulas and Minister of Tourism, Olga Kefalogianni also gave their respective addresses. The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova sent a message in support of the new campaign.
A number of guest speakers addressed the audience on various aspects surrounding reunification starting with the very charismatic Mounir Bouchenaki, Honorary Special Advisor of the Director-General of UNESCO. Mr Bouchenaki spoke about cultural heritage as the 'soul' of every nation. In the journey to the conference, he had spoken about the times he had met with the Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor and made his own appeal for the sculptures of the Parthenon. Mr Bouchenaki feels that such a magnanimous gesture would make a great difference to the world.
Professor Pandermalis, President of the
Acropolis Museum, gave the background on the creation of the museum and the issues they faced when they were displaying the sculptures of the Parthenon - how they dealt with the fact that half are in Bloomsbury, in the British Museum. He went on to show and explain the ambitious digital restoration program of the Parthenon sculptures that the Acropolis Museum has started on the 5th anniversary of the Museum. Horse riders of the west frieze are presented in 3D digital images with additions of copper weapons and bridles, with alternating light and colour testing.
William St Clair, Senior Research Fellow Institute of English Studies, School of advanced Study, University of Londonreferred to the return of the sculptures of the Parthenon as a 200 year old case, a paradigm. He discussed the firman, intellectual property, the language and stewardship of the British Museum, integrity.
Mark Vlasic, Professor of Law at Georgetown University gave a talk on fighting impunity from war crimes or corruption and how this might also extend to stolen antiquities.
Manouella Pavlidou, Secretary General of the 'Melina Mercouri Foundation' paid tribute to the late Melina Mercouri and her passion for the return of the sculptures to Greece.
Christoforos Argyropoulos, President of the Melina Mercouri Foundationand the Greek Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, upheld a word we often use, respect. And respect with reference to what continues to be symbol of values in society. And he also mentioned that light, that Athenian light which makes viewing the sculptures of the Parthenon, so special. We could not agree more!
David Hill, Chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, a ten year old organisation which has an international community of 16 member countries including Britain, all campaigning in favour of reunification, emphasised this association’s ongoing commitment to the cause and working closely and in co-operation with the Greek government.
The British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (BCRPM), presented the rich history of the campaign which was started in the UK in 1983 by James Cubitt, a British architect and whose wife Eleni Cubitt was Secretary for nearly three decades and continues to be the founder. The presentation explained the various level of campaigning plus highlighted just a few examples how individuals had made their own stand. Starting with swimming and cycling, Dr Christophe Stockdale; Greek students in the courtyard of the British Museum singing, dancing, reciting poetry, Sofka Smales on Trafalgar’s Plinth; Mary Phillips and her memorable stand. Then there followed clips from a selection of BCRPM members and supporters speaking at the International London Colloquy in 2012, including Professor Judith Herrin,British archaeologist and academic of Late Antiquity, Professor Emerita of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King's College London. Judith explained the tough job the BCRPM faced in the 80’s and 90’s praising Robert Browning and Eleni Cubitt. Judith went on to say that she continues to be a committed member to the cause would like to see both the British government and the British Museum face up to their responsibilities.
Christina Borg, literary Journalist and a member of BCRPM paying tribute to the late Christopher Hitchen's and his 2008 edition of The Parthenon Sculptures: A Case for Reunification, providing a very old cause with a new direction. The nub of the argument was that with the opening of the new Acropolis Museum (2009) the sculptures of the Parthenon must be seen as a unified whole, as part of a continuous narrative, in their original context. Christina emphasised that Hitchens deployed his extensive knowledge and reason to advance the Parthenon campaign. In his view Greece’s domestic and political position was irrelevant. This was a matter of principle.
Eddie O'Hara as Chairman of the BCRPM and Honorary President of Marbles Reunited, on BCRPM’s stand, immunised against the floodgates argument based on the story of the fragmented sculptures as unique. Eddie feels that there is no other example of a UNESCO world heritage fixed monument, so defaced and so ‘unreunified’, therefore to “reunify the Marbles would not open any floodgate because there is not a lot of precedent it could set. The onus is on those who do not support the reunification. And the beauty of literally reunited ‘other halves’, pieces of the same block, to be seen by the world in the Acropolis Museum, is the one place on earth where it is possible to have a single and aesthetic experience simultaneously of the Parthenon and it’s sculptures.”
Tom Flynn, art historian and BCRPM member, explained the concept of the Universal museum. He stated that the current display of the Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum’s make a mockery of BM’s claim to coherent educational purpose. The contrast between the two galleries – London ad Athens - is enough to reduce anyone to tears. Museums will have to listen to what their public say and act upon it. He concluded that Neil MacGregor ought to do the right thing, cover himself in glory and reunite the marbles now.
Andrew Dismore, London Assembly Member, former Labour MP for Hendon, feels that arguments about ownership are sterile, dangerous and that a court case would put back the political and cultural case. He concluded that legislative change could be effected if there is the political will to do it.
George Bizos, also a BCRPM member and human rights advocate and author, highlighted how we are all involved in this campaign and whilst the MacGregor’s of this world and those that think like him, say ‘well Greece is in a sad state, they can’t do nothing’ –they don’t understand Greek history, the number of occasions Greece was practically burned down, but rose like a Phoenix…. And we are confident he said, ‘that it will happen again’.
Marlen Godwin concluded the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles presentation by saying:
“The background and history was shown not because we need to dwell on it but because it is important to know where the campaign to reunite the sculptures of the Parthenon has been so as to inform where the campaign goes in the future. We do need to recognise the current political dispensation in the United Kingdom and working within that, noting Britain's recent essays in Europe. There is no doubt that the armoury is full, every single and possible argument has been rehearsed and addressed, not least as we soak up the display of the sculptures, right here in the amazing Acropolis Museum - it is imperative that the focus of any campaign continues to harness the positive energy gathered over the decades from civil society and to find a way forward with legislative change. Key too is orchestrating the diverse voices from the many parts of the globe, all equally passionate for the cause. We thank the Marianna Vardinoyanni and her foundation and the Melina Mercouri Foundation for inviting us to speak and every success with this new campaign."
Fabrizio Micalizzi, Secretary of the Swiss Committee for the Return of the Parthenon Marbles, spoke about the reunification cause as a strong European concern. That a creative proposal would provide the British Museum and the Acropolis Museum, with a ‘win win’ situation for Parthenon Marbles.
Aggelos Devorrias, Director of the Benaki Museum, also spoke mentioning Eleni Cubitt and Professor Anthony Snodgrass, past Chairman and Honorary President of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. He emphasised the cause, its supporters and the need to have Greece as firm player in the reunification campaign and congratulated the two foundation on organising today’s event and launch of a new campaign.
Illias Nikolakopoulos, Professor of Social Theory & Sociology, University of Athens had carried out pools and conducted a study amongst Greeks to gauge the level of information geographically, socially and within different age groups. Considering the perceptions of different socio-economic groups towards the Greek state, cultural foundations and the international media. This critical information gathering could be used to raise awareness of this cause and cultural mobility.
Rounding up an intense, yet creative day moderator Pavlos Tsimas, journalist and presenter, thanked everyone that had attended and in particular Marianna Vardinoyannis, the Marianna Vadinoyannis Foundation and the Melina Mercouri Foundation for this initiative, the campaign: Return The Marbles Restore Parthenon Restart History. He remembered the emotional moment in 1993 when he interviewed for the last time, the late Melina Mercouri and how this interview continues to haunt him. The elation he felt when Professor Pandermalis opened the museum. His visit to Lord Elgin's home in Scotland, Cavafy's writing from Alexandria and more, stressing society's moral values; our obligation to maintain these values; garnering support for the cause in Greece and globally; and the launch of this new campaign.
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