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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Private Members' Bill for the return to Greece of the Parthenon Marbles
11 July 2016, a cross-party group of MPs submitted a Private Members' Bill to UK's Parliament calling for a change in the law to allow the British Museum to transfer ownership of the Parthenon marbles to Greece. This initiative led by Mark Williams is supported by Roger Gale, Margaret Ferrier, Jeremy Lefroy, Mary Glindon, Hywel Williams, and Liz Saville Roberts hopes to right a 200 year wrong.
This Presentation Bill will have its second reading in the House of Commons on 20 January 2017.
More on this and the British Museums response from the article in the Museums Journal.
Cycling and the Parthenon Marbles
Congratulations to Chris Froome on winning this year's Tour de France.
Chris also won the 2013 and 2015 races and is the first to successfully defend his title in more than 20 years. He finished this years epic race, arm-in-arm with his team-mates behind the peloton after Andre Greipel won the final sprint finish.
Cycling has also featured in the campaign for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles Three very different and very dedicated individuals, share their passion for cycling with a deep desire to see this peerless work of art reunited in the Acropolis Museum, in Athens, Greece.
Currently the surviving Parthenon marbles are mainly (and almost equally) divided between two great museums - the British Museum in London, where their collection has been displayed for 200 years and the Acropolis Museum in Athens, which recently celebrated it's seventh year. It is in Athens, that 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 return these fragmented sculptures has resulted in the main reason stopping the British Museum from doing the right thing. In the BM, these sculptures form part of world history. Over six millions visitors to the British Museum are shown how they should 'see' history in the context of other objects and their stories.
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 2014, Dr Luca Lo Sicco embarked on his first bicycle trip from the British Museum, across Europe to Greece and the Acropolis Museum, where he donated his bicycle to the museum. Professor Pandermalis, President of the Acropolis Museum sent him this letter.
Luca continued his cycling the following year to Copenhagen, Denmark. It is here, in the National Museum of Denmark, there are two heads missing from a metope, which is in the British Museum in London.
On 02 July 2014, the edition of the Yorkshire Post Life & Style Magazine, carried an article on formidable octagenerian, Michelle Patrax Evans. Also a keen cyclist, Michelle lives in Leeds and was looking forward to the tour de France of 2014 but she has been passionate about the sculptures from the Parthenon for decades.
Before her interview with journalist Sarah Freeman, Michelle frantically made contact to ask, was cycling a part of the campaign for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles ....
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 2014.
And with cycling playing a significant role for campaigners of the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, we would like to add our heartfelt congratulations to Chris Froome on winning the Tour de France yesterday and for the third time. A great achievement.
The Restitution, Repatriation, and Return of Cultural Objects: The Parthenon Debate
Kevin P Ray has written a lucid and timely analysis of the knotty problems facing any attempt to achieve a legal resolution of the dispute over the Parthenon Marbles: which court would be competent to hear a case about an alleged transgression, the details of which are in dispute, by Lord Elgin of the terms of a licence, the precise status of which is unclear, under the legal system of a country, the Ottoman Empire, which no longer exists, brought two centuries later by a national state, Greece, which first came into being only at a later date, and if such a court could be found, how would it enforce its judgement?
He considers The Hague Convention (there was no armed conflict involved), the UNESCO Convention (not retrospective) and the UNIDROIT Convention (the UK is not a signatory). He suggests the need for the articulation of a "new rule of customary international law", which does not currently exist, relying on these conventions together with the ECHR and the 1993 EU Directive on the Return of Cultural Objects, but points out the limitations even of this.
He concludes by suggesting that the situation may continue to be intractable unless the differing parties are prepared to move the question on from recrimination and disputes over title and ownership, with absolute positions and national and political emotions set aside and a new emphasis on flexibility, negotiation and mutual benefit.
Original links to Kevin Ray's article on the Parthenon sculptures debate: Part I (http://www.gtlaw-culturalassets.com/2016/04/the-parthenon-debate-part-i/#more-1867 ) and Part II (http://www.gtlaw-culturalassets.com/2016/04/the-parthenon-debate-part-ii/#more-1870 ).
Kevin Ray is Of Counsel in the Chicago office of Greenberg Traurig LLP. He focuses his practice in the areas of art and cultural heritage law and financial services (lending transactions and restructuring/insolvency matters). He represents and advises artists, art galleries, art collectors, museums and cultural institutions in a variety of transactions, including consignments, questions of title, provenance, and compliance with national and international law. He advises lenders and debtors on issues unique to art, antiquities and other cultural property in a variety of lending and commercial transactions. Prior to practicing law, Kevin was director of rare books, manuscripts and art collections at Washington University in St. Louis and taught at the Washington University School of Art.
Kevin is the author of Art and Cultural Property (forthcoming, American Bar Association Press, 2016), is a frequent speaker and writer on art and cultural heritage law issues, and is a frequent contributor to Greenberg Traurig's art and cultural property lawblog, Cultural Assets (http://www.gtlaw-culturalassets.com/ )
The Acropolis Museum in its 7th year
20 June 2016, is the Acropolis Museum's 7th anniversary. The museum has welcomed 9.5 million visitors since 2009 and looks to exceed 10 million by this autumn.
“We have been able to retain the numbers of visitors since the first year,” Professor Pandermalis commented. "The main aims for the seventh year of operation has been maintaining the high level of services to visitors, increasing digital applications in exhibition halls and introducing an innovative program for temporary exhibitions" he added.
The Acropolis Museum was built to house what has been discovered on the Acropolis and the surrounding area, covering a wide period from the Mycenaeans to Romans and Early Christians in Athens.
From today 20 June 2016 and up to 10 January 2017 on the Temporary Exhibition Gallery, on the ground floor of the Acropolis Museum, visitors can experience Dodona, the oracle of sound.
This exhibition will provide a wider knowledge about the oldest Greek oracle, Dodona - tracing the way it functioned, its role and importance in the ancient world, and at the same time showcasing the human need to predict the future.
The exhibit’s narration begins with Dodona during the late Bronze Age. Clay and bronze artifacts illuminate the identity of the first inhabitants, the primitive cult of Mother Earth (Earth Goddess) and the establishment of Zeus’ cult. The main focus of this exhibition lies in Zeus and his predominant presence in the sanctuary. The central theme is the prophetic oak tree that with the rustle of its leaves would answer the agonizing questions of people and of what lies ahead.
Prophecies were also given by priests who de-coded the sounds of bronze cauldrons and the cooing of pigeons. The excavations conducted in Dodona have brought to light some thousands of questions carved in metal sheets of lead, posed by visitors in the sanctuary. Some of these questions concern matters of trade, debts, assets, court decisions, health, fertility, upcoming marriage, dowries and widowhood and are presented in a separate unit of the exhibition.
From the dedications in the sanctuary parts of bronze statues, parts of armory, swords and part of their suspensions, dedications from those who benefited from the gods or invoked their help are also displayed. Characteristic coins highlight the political aspect of the Oracle and its connection with Pyrros, the King of Epirus. Lastly, the relationship between the city of Athens and Dodona is presented by two exhibits from the Acropolis Museum.
This exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue of the items on display. On a big screen of the exhibition area, a video presentation will provide information about the Oracle and the natural environment surrounding it.
During the exhibition, the Museum’s restaurant will offer treats from Ioannina.
This exhibition is hosted at the Acropolis Museum with the collaboration of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Ioannina. The exhibits are on a loan from the Ioannina Museum and the National Archaeological Museum, Carapanos Collection.
Entrance to the Dodona temporary exhibition is 3 euros. Tickets are available for sale at the museum’s ticket desk.
200 years of the Elgin collection, special event at the British Museum
Friday 1 July 2016, 18.30–20.00 @ British Museum's BP Lecture Theatre a 'special event' for the 200th year anniversary of the British Museum’s acquisition of the Elgin collection.
Chaired by Curator Ian Jenkins, British Museum, panellists include David Bindman, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at UCL, Athena Leoussi, Associate Professor in European History at the University of Reading, and author and historian Dominic Selwood. Introduced by Lesley Fitton, Keeper of the Department of Greece and Rome, British Museum.
For more information and price for tickets, visit British Museum page.
And a reminder to Dominic Selwood that if he believes Lord Elgin 'saved the Parthenon marbles - BCRPM's response is as follows:
1. Whether or not Elgin "rescued" the Parthenon Marbles, that is no excuse for holding on to them now;
2. The Greeks fought their war of independence in the name of Hellenism, a concept and a spirit preserved and transmitted through their language throughout centuries of conquests and occupations;
3. The Parthenon is a monument of unique significance not just for Greece but for western civilisation;
4. The Parthenon is a fixed monument and it is in Greece;
5. The sculptures are integral architectural elements of it;
6. Both the Parthenon and it's other sculpted elements lack artistic integrity while they are separated;
7. Admittedly, the sculptures can no longer be re fixed to the Parthenon or indeed displayed anywhere in the open. However in the glass walled Parthenon Gallery of the magnificent Acropolis Museum, glassed walled and in line of sight of the Parthenon, and only there, they can be viewed simultaneously with the building to which they belong. Thus the case for reunification of the Parthenon marbles is not a legal one about rights of ownership, current or historic, but cultural and ethical. The onus of justification should be on those who resist restoring the integrity of the sculptures from the Parthenon - the Parthenon a UNESCO World Heritage monument, the very emblem of UNESCO itself.
Britain has kept the ‘Elgin Marbles’ for 200 years – now it's time to pass them on
There is a reason for this. It’s the reason why Dennis Hope, founder of the Lunar Embassy and self-dubbed President of the Galactic Government, is no lunatic but an entrepreneur who has sold over 600m acres of “extraterrestrial real estate” to over 6m people. It’s the reason why Nestlé has rebranded itself as a corporate water steward, while bottling ground water at the expense of local communities.
It’s also the reason why today (07 June 2016), on the 200th anniversary of the British parliamentary vote to purchase the sculptures that Lord Elgin sawed off the Parthenon, the British Museum continues to insist that its trustees are legally entitled to the sculptures.
Read more from this article in The Conversation here.
Constantine Sandis, Professor of Philosophy, University of Hertfordshire
Ways to stand alone
The photograph on the dust jacket of Tiffany Jenkins’s Keeping Their Marbles shows a museum display of breathtaking elegance and beauty. Two dozen small fragments of marble sculptures seem to float in mid-air, fixed to one another and to the plain white base of the display with simple brushed steel rods. A good threequarters of the original sculptural group is lost, but the viewer’s imagination fills in the gaps with little effort. At the left, a female figure dashes in, reaching towards a rearing horse, perhaps pulling at its flying reins; at the centre, two huge figures, one male, one female, stand locked in struggle. In the sculptures, everything is motion and energy. By contrast, the gallery space that surrounds them is crisp and minimalist, with nothing to distract the viewer’s attention from the astonishing objects on show – except perhaps the wooded hills just visible outside the window, with the sun setting behind them. It is hard to imagine a better illustration of the book’s subtitle: “How the treasures of the past ended up in museums . . . and why they should stay there”.
The photo shows the surviving sculptures from the west pediment of the Parthenon, displayed with sensitivity and tact in a museum space of the most extraordinary beauty. The museum in the photograph is the Acropolis Museum in the city of Athens, one of the world’s truly great museums, which houses not a single item looted, stolen, or bought from a country poorer than the Athenians’ own. The female figure on the left, a study in kinetic energy, is the goddess Iris. The head of the goddess
is original, but her body is a plaster cast; Iris’s body today stands in the Duveen Gallery of the British Museum. Dull is the eye, wrote Byron, that will not weep. He was right.
Read the full article by Peter Thonemann on Tiffany Jenkins' book here
The article was printed on 29 April 2016
Dr Peter Thonemann
The following week (06 May) the Editor printed a letter submitted by a reader, James Hall from Winchester:
There was, as you might have anticipated, a long set of email exchanges amongst BCRPM members.
Hon President Prof Anthony Snodgrass wrote a reply to the letter by James Hall.
Sir, - The odd cultural judgment apart - Byron as an ‘opportunistic buffoon’ -the great length of James Hall’s letter on the Parthenon Marbles (May 6) is down to the number of factual misstatements, some new, some worn by repetition, that he insists on including. There is no space to do more than list them, before picking out what is perhaps the prize specimen.
‘Most large sculptures in Greek museums have been stripped from temples (unearthed, not ‘stripped’ - that was left to Elgin); ‘imported slaves built the Parthenon’ (a tendentious exaggeration); ‘the National Museum contains work from colonies throughout the Aegean’ (a devious word-play on the associations of the word ‘colony’); the Acropolis Museum is ‘poorly attended’ (yet it somehow attracts greater numbers than that minority of British Museum visitors who actually enter the Duveen Gallery); ‘Those professionally involved with Greece presumably fear for career and well-being if they come out in favour of retention’ (he must be alone in so presuming).
As a member of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, I am flattered that he credits our movement with ‘great social, political and academic clout’, but that is surely another exaggeration; and it is equally far-fetched to call our opponents ‘a silent majority’ when they are neither silent nor a majority - as a glance, respectively, at the reactionary press or at a series of periodic U.K. opinion polls will show.
But: ‘the Marbles have been well loved, treated and contextualized’ in Bloomsbury’ - that is going too far. Well contextualized in the acknowledged ‘joylessness’ of the Duveen Gallery, with the frieze turned inside out and the arrangement doctored to hide the gaps ? And was James Hall around in 1999 when the British Museum hosted a colloquium on the ‘cleaning’ operation, carried out sixty years earlier at Duveen’s insistence, where one of its own Keepers described the cleaning as ‘a scandal, and the cover-up … another scandal’ ? Many of the London sculptures lost up to a millimetre of their surface in that operation; to see the original surface detail of the frieze slabs, one must revert to the pieces in Athens that had been ‘at the mercy of the toxic elements’ - well yes, but these have still turned out to be more merciful than the chisels and abrasives of Duveen.