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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Greek Ministry of Culture:Resolution 18GA 2014/40 passed at ICOMOS General Assembly in Florence, Italy
Greek Ministry of Culture:Resolution 18GA 2014/40 passed at ICOMOS General Assembly in Florence, Italy, 14 November 2014
DRAFT RESOLUTIONS – ICOMOS 2014
Dr. ATHANASIOS NAKASIS
PRESIDENT ICOMOS GREECE
Dr. ELENA KORKA
ICOMOS GREECE – International Issues
General Director of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage
Hellenic Ministry of Culture
BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND JUSTIFICATION:
In the 19th century Lord Elgin removed integral architectural sculptures from the frieze, the metopes and the pediments from the Parthenon. The Parthenon Marbles that are on display at the British Museum make up approximately 60% of the total remaining sculptural material of the monument. The need for their reunification with the other 40%, now exhibited in the Acropolis Museum in Athens, is a cultural desideratum. It will be to the benefit of every visitor (scholar or not), who seeks to view the Parthenon and its historical environment. The issue of the Parthenon Marbles is continuously on the agenda of the Committee for the Promotion of the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin (ICPRCP) since 1984. Twenty two (22) Committees all over the world were founded in support of the reunification, while polls carried out through the years, show the high public interest on the issue.
For many years Greece has requested from the British Government on various occasions and on a consistent basis the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles on the basis of collaboration and good will. This is probably the most famous and longstanding request of cultural heritage ever. It concerns this most exquisite monument of classical Athens and the most representative manifestation of the classical spirit.
At a meeting held between the Greek Minister of Culture and Sports and the Director General of UNESCO, in July 2013, the former asked UNESCO for its good offices, in order for Greece and the UK to enter into mediation for the issue of the Parthenon Marbles. UNESCO sent a letter to the Secretary of State of the U.K., Mr. William Hague, the Secretary of Culture, Ms Maria Miller and the Director of the British Museum, Mr. Neil MacGregor, informing them of Greece’s request that UNESCO examine the possibility of resorting to the process of mediation as foreseen by the relevant bylaws of the Organization, in order to reach an amicable solution concerning the Parthenon Marbles.
Moreover, on 1st and 2nd October representatives of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports met within the context of the Unesco Intergovernmental Committee for the Promotion of the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin (ICPRCP) with representatives of the British Government in order to discuss the Parthenon Marbles issue. The main point of the bilateral discussions this time was the lack of reaction of the UK to the invitation sent in August 2013 by UNESCO in regard to the mediation with Greece on the Parthenon Marbles issue.
The meeting resulted in a consensus, adopted by the Committee. The Recommendation invites Britain to consider the proposal for mediation.
In this framework UNESCO will use its good offices in order to facilitate further meetings between the two sides.
It is the first time that Member States of Unesco are invited to mediation since these rules have only been adopted in 2010.
The Rules of Procedure for Mediation and Conciliation are conceived under the general principles of equity, impartiality and good faith, which are intended to promote harmonious and fair resolution for disputes concerning the restitution of cultural property. Each State is invited to nominate and submit to the Secretariat the names of two individuals who may serve as mediators and conciliators. Their qualification is contingent on their competency and mastery in matters of restitution, resolution dispute and other specific characteristics of the protection of cultural property.
The rules of procedure are meant to be complementary to the work of the Intergovernmental Committee. It is noted that the text adopted by the Intergovernmental Committee represents a legal tool that does not constitute a binding normative obligation.
Regarding the above, the National Committee of ICOMOS Hellenic, deems it necessary to request the approval of the following proposal regarding the Greek request for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles in order, for the integrity of the monument, to be restored in its historic, cultural and natural environment:
1. Use of the procedure of mediation
2. UK should enter into mediation with Greece on the Parthenon Marbles issue, on the basis of UNESCO’s 2010 mediation rules.
Mediation is a new procedure, which is not binding and will encourage collaboration and discussion between the two sides to find a win-win solution.
RESOLUTION ADDRESSED TO:
The resolution addresses the following public agencies and other competent institutions:
1. Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports
2. UK Ministry of Culture, Media and Sports
3. National Committees for UNESCO
AGENCY RESPONSIBLE FOR IMPLEMENTING THE RESOLUTION:
1. State Public Services (e.g. Ministries of Culture)
3. ICOMOS (National Committees)
DRAFT TEXT FOR THE RESOLUTION:
The 18th General Assembly developed in Florence, Italy, from 9 to 14 November 2014, considering the the 19th Recommendation of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting The Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation and the basis of UNESCO’s 2010 mediation rules, resolved:
To support the mediation process proposed by Greece for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles on the basis of UNESCO’s 2010 mediation and to encourage both parties (Greece and United Kingdom) to open a fruitful dialogue aiming at a mutually acceptable solution.
Further reading :
“ACROPOLIS – A Unique World Heritage Monument - The Return of the Marbles”
Why it’s right to repatriate certain museum artefacts: a response to James Cuno by tom flynn
Defeatist outlook by British Museum Director, Neil MacGregor
From the Times article by Richard Morrison, published 07 November 2014
Neil MacGregor: ‘There is no possibility of putting the Elgin Marbles back’
The British Museum director explains why the Parthenon Sculptures will not be returned to Greece during his tenure
During his 15 years in charge of the National Gallery, Neil MacGregor was nicknamed Saint Neil by his adoring staff, partly because of his Christian beliefs and partly because he ran that place with a heavenly touch. After 12 years at the helm of the BM the halo is still in place — just.
It’s hard to recall now how disunited and financially adrift the mighty Bloomsbury institution seemed before MacGregor arrived. He has pulled it round and his own adroit media achievements — notably the marvellous BBC Radio 4 seriesA History of the World in 100 Objects— have given its treasures a much higher profile. With a new book and another Radio 4 series, he is doing the same thing for the BM’s latest big exhibition:Germany: Memories of a Nation.
Yet in some quarters, particularly around southern Europe, MacGregor is regarded more as devil than saint. He has never wavered from his view that the Elgin Marbles (or the Parthenon Sculptures, as the BM officially calls them) should stay in Bloomsbury rather than be returned to Athens, from where they were removed by Lord Elgin between 1801 and 1805. Now the Greeks are mounting their strongest attack on the BM’s position since the 1970s heyday of Melina Mercouri. They have hired a team of media-savvy human rights lawyers, including Geoffrey Robertson and Amal Clooney (wife of George). With a film about wartime art looting to publicise, Clooney himself also joined the attack earlier this year. Unesco, no less, has now called on Britain to take part in a “mediation procedure” with the Greeks to resolve the issue.
Saintly or not, MacGregor visibly bristles at that suggestion. “Unesco is an intergovernmental organisation but the trustees of the British Museum are not part of the British government,” he says. “The British government does not own the great cultural collections of this country. The pictures in the National Gallery, the objects in the British Museum, are held by the trustees and their duty is to preserve the objects for the study and enjoyment of the whole world. They have a charitable responsibility imposed by law to ensure that those objects give maximum public benefit.”
It’s the belief of MacGregor and his trustees (who, he points out, include “two Nobel prize-winners and distinguished people from all over the world”) that the Marbles will give “maximum public benefit” by staying in London, rather than going to a new museum in Athens. “From its beginning 250 years ago, the point of the BM was gathering together objects in one place to tell narratives about the world,” he says. “When the Parthenon Sculptures came to London it was the first time that they could be seen at eye-level. They stopped being architectural details in the Parthenon and became sculptures in their own right. They became part of a different story — of what the human body has meant in world culture. In Athens they would be part of an exclusively Athenian story.”
Athenian? “Yes. It’s not even a Greek monument. Many other Greek cities and islands protested bitterly about the money taken from them to build this in Athens.”
Surely one of the strongest Greek arguments is that all the Parthenon Sculptures should be reunited — and the obvious place for that to happen is as close to the Parthenon as possible. “Well, about 30 per cent of the Sculptures are in Athens and 30 per cent are here,” MacGregor counters. “You don’t have to be very mathematical to see that quite a lot of them no longer exist. So there’s no possibility of recovering an artistic entity and even less of putting them back in the ruined building from which they came. Indeed, the Greek authorities have continued Lord Elgin’s work of removing sculptures for exactly the same reason: to protect them and to study them.”
Another argument put forward by the Greeks is that the Marbles were illegally removed by Elgin. He certainly negotiated with the ruling authorities in Athens, but in the early 19th century that was the Ottoman empire, not the Greeks. “Was the acquisition legal?” MacGregor asks rhetorically before answering himself with a rather optimistic generalisation: “I think everybody would have to agree that it was.”
Isn’t the vital document giving Elgin the right to remove the Marbles missing? “You had to surrender the document as you exported,” MacGregor replies — now every inch the tenacious Scottish lawyer he once trained to be. “That’s the point. Everything was done very publicly, very slowly. In 1800 you couldn’t move great slabs of marble quickly. At any point the Ottoman authorities could have stopped it.”
Nevertheless, if artefacts acquired the same way as Elgin acquired the Marbles were offered to the BM today, wouldn’t modern ethical guidelines prevent their acceptance? MacGregor refutes even this, pointing to what he considers to be a present-day parallel. “The BM excavates in Sudan today at the invitation of the authorities,” he says. “And the Sudanese authorities allow us to keep some of what we find.”
So for all Mrs Clooney’s glamorous entreaties, is the BM still determined not even to talk to the Greeks about the future of the Marbles? “On the contrary,” MacGregor says. “The trustees have always been ready for any discussions. The complication is that the Greek government will not recognise the trustees as the legal owners, so conversations are difficult.”
Then how about lending the Marbles (or the parts fit enough to travel) as a temporary exhibition? After all, the BM is (as MacGregor points out) the most generous lender of all the world’s great museums. “The Greek authorities are not interested in borrowing them,” he replies. “That’s sad because these sculptures do belong to everyone. Letting them be seen in different places is important.”
Although the Elgin Marbles row may make him seem like one, MacGregor is far from being a conventional member of the British establishment. He accepted his appointment to the Order of Merit in 2010 but declined a knighthood in 1999 — the first National Gallery director to do so. When I ask him why, he clams up. “We have a convention in this country that we don’t discuss these things,” he says.
He is no more forthcoming about how much longer he might run the BM. “That’s for the trustees to decide,” he says. “I will say that this is a wonderful place to work: living daily with the greatest objects in the world and looking at them with the world’s greatest scholars.” From the fierce glint in his eye I surmise that he’s not going to quit just yet. And while he stays, so do the Marbles.
And our response to the Times
The one entity to which the Parthenon marbles indisputably and inalienably belong is the Parthenon, arguably the most significant of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They can never cease to be integral elements of its architecture. Together they are one artistic entity, albeit no longer entire but still exceptionally so after 2,500 years. Such a separation of such an important monument is surely unparalled. They can no longer be displayed in the open air, anywhere, but in Athens alone you have the nearest possible alternative. In the Acropolis Museum they can be viewed in direct line of sight with the Parthenon which can itself be part of the same visit. The case for their reunification is unique and overwhelming.
Chairman, the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles
Other related articles:
Letters from BCRPM to: Times, Independent and Telegraph
The British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles responds and justifies the reunification of the sculptures from the Parthenon.
In response to Jeremy Paxman, The Telegraph, 25/10/14
27 October 2014
The Elgin Marbles belong in Britain, Mrs Clooney
Please allow me to respond to just some of Mr Paxman's most egregious excesses. He suggests that Elgin saved these works of art from a fate as building rubble. He must know that it was standard practice until very recently for older buildings to be raided for building materials. The foundations of the Parthenon itself were recovered from a predecessor temple. However I am not aware that the Parthenon itself was so raided, nor that Mary Beard said so. The Parthenon and its sculpted elements are a single artistic entity. Their integrity is compromised as long as they are divided. Clearly the sculptures can no longer be replaced on the building, but the Acropolis Museum is unique in being the only place where these sculptures can be viewed in line of sight with the Parthenon itself.
UNESCO recognises the Parthenon's exceptional importance not only with World Heritage Status but by basing its own logo on it. We campaign only for this single restoration. It is surely unique. It offers no precedent for other returnist demands.
Finally, our case has nothing to do with the legitimacy or otherwise of Elgin's acquisition of his collection. After such a passage of time and change we believe that it is impossible to get a conclusive judicial determination, either way. Anyway to us a legal determination would be unworthy of the case. The moral and cultural case for reunification is overwhelming and enough.
Chairman, the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles
In response to Dominic Selwood, The Telegraph 22/10/14
The 7th Lord Elgin: hero or villain
22 October 2014
Dominic Selwood's article was interesting not least because it is rare nowadays to find someone defending the 7th Lord Elgin in such detail. However his article is littered with inaccuracies and categorically stated non-truths which require correcting, and contentious opinions which deserve a response. Perhaps in the interests of fairness you might give us space in your columns to reply in full. For the moment however let us just point out:
1. Whether or not Elgin "rescued" these sculptures, 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. It is 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.
Chairman, British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles
In response to Nathalie Haynes, The Independent, 14/10/14
14 October 2014
Would returning the Elgin Marbles be the thin end of the repatriation wedge?
Let us start with where Natalie Haynes is correct: Yes, the British Museum did acquire the Parthenon marbles in good faith. Yes, the 7th Lord Elgin was a chancer. He exploited Nelson's victories over Napoleon's navy to seek personal favours as British Ambassador to the Ottoman court. He exceeded his licence from the Ottoman authorities to collect bits and pieces ("qualche pezzi di pietra") lying around on the acropolis. His purpose was to adorn his country home. He displayed his collection for profit and only sold it to the nation in a fire sale when his wife divorced him and took her money with her. His actions were criticised at the time, not least by Lord Byron, as plunder and vandalism.Now to where Natalie is wrong: the Duveen gallery is a relative dungeon where the marbles are displayed inside out compared with the glassed walled Parthenon Gallery gallery of the Acropolis Museum where they are displayed in the correct configuration AND in line of sight with the Parthenon itself.That they are a jewel in the crown of the British Museum is no more relevant than the fact that the Boscotrecase frescoes are such to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It does not justify their presence there. The question is: should the aesthetic integrity of the sculpted elements of the Parthenon, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the most important such site in Europe and the very emblem itself of UNESCO, remain impaired by their display in two museums 2,500 miles part?
The overwhelming verdict of public, academic and professional opinion, when it is canvassed, is overwhelmingly 'No'. Would it be the thin end of the wedge? Hardly likely. The ethical and cultural case for this reunification is overwhelming and unique. Not much precedent there.
Chairman, The British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles
In response to the Leading Articles in The Times 14/10/14
No Losing the Marbles, The Parthenon sculptures should remain at the British Museum
14 October 2014
Whose marbles are they anyway?
Where to start with the errors and misconceptions in your leader on the sculptures of the Parthenon? Perhaps with that, their correct description. They are integral, sculpted architectural elements of the Parthenon, sawn off by Elgin's agents who thereby mutilated and destroyed the artistic integrity of what is now recognised as the prime UNESCO World Heritage Monument in Europe, in fact the very emblem itself of UNESCO. He did not have the "keen agreement" of the Ottoman authorities but far exceeded the licence which they had given him to remove "qualche pezzi di pietra" lying on the ground. His actions were criticised at the time, not least by Lord Byron as both plunder and vandalism. Nor was this an expensive act of altruism. He wanted them to adorn his country home, displayed them initially for profit and sold them to the nation only when he was bankrupted by the consequences of his divorce. Your comparison with the Folger collection of First Folios is also misconceived. Folger was a collector of copies of books which were originally published as editions for the open market. His service to the world is to have collected and preserved them for public view and study. Nor is it the case that Greek politicians have been interested in these sculpted pieces only since the 1980s. There is published evidence of demands for their return from the very inception of the modern Greek nation state.
Finally it is specious to say that some of these sculptures are in the Louvre. The Louvre has one metope and one slab of the frieze. The BM has 15 metopes, a major portion of the pediments and over 50% of the surviving length of the frieze. Successive polls of professional and public opinion have overwhelmingly supported the reunification of the sculptures of the Parthenon.
Britain is shamed in the eyes of millions of visitors from around the world when they see the ghostly representations in the magnificent Acropolis Museum of the pieces absent in London. It is time for the British Museum and the British Government to open their eyes, raise their sights and respond appropriately. And, please, no more cheap jibes about losing our marbles.
Chairman, British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles
Mrs Clooney creates a surge of interest for the sculptures of the Parthenon
Now that the dust has settled what is the net outcome of the highly publicised visit of Amal Alamuddin-Clooney to Athens to advise the Greek Government on its policy in demanding the return of the Parthenon marbles currently in the British Museum? Because of her A list status, her involvement has brought exposure of the issue, both in Britain and throughout the world, to people and places to which it has never before penetrated.
We know from experience that it will consequentially have brought an incalculably valuable boost in support for the campaign. But the principles and practices of the campaign remain the same. For the foreseeable future we carry on as normal, campaigning to persuade the British Government, either directly or through the pressure of all the public and professional opinion (of all sorts) which we can muster in our support to accept the case for the reunification of the Parthenon marbles.
"Professional" includes not just museum professionals, important as they are, but actors, authors, journalists, athletes, indeed anyone in the public eye who has a public following which can be reached through their interest. We have abundant evidence that when the public are made aware of the issue they tend by a large majority to support reunification. The more of this support we can demonstrate the stronger is the case we can make to the British Government that, if it won't search its own conscience, it is out of step with the public it represents in resisting demands for reunification.
So, thank you Amal Alamuddin-Clooney for your active involvement in the campaign for the reunification of the Parthenon marbles. Not only have you created a surge of British public interest in (and, predictably, support for) this reunification but also the world wide awareness of the issue which you have caused will, predictably, bring discredit to Britain for as long as our government fails to respond. Please continue, with your husband, to demonstrate your support for our campaign.
Eddie O'Hara, Chairman, British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles
For more artilcles:
As a Briton, I hang my head in shame. We must return the Parthenon marbles, Helena Smith, Observer, 19 October 2014
LOOK, I'm as big a patriot as the next Briton but honestly, we have to give the Elgin Marbles back to Greece, Richard & Judy, Express, 18 October, 2014
George Clooney's wife Amal Alamuddin aids Greece's bid for return of Elgin Marbles, Nick Squires, Telegraph, 08 October, 2014
Amal has the Greek gods in her sights, Evening Standard, 08 October 2014
UNESCO and moving forward
Amid the media attention of Amal Alamuddin-Clooney's visit to Athens to advise the Greek Government on its policy options to secure the return of those sculptures of the Parthenon held in the British Museum another piece of news was released: the decision of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin to stipulate a 6 month limit on the time for parties to respond to calls for mediation over disputed cultural property.
The "committee with the long name", as it is called affectionately by UNESCO aficionados, is the body which supported the Greek appeal for mediation over the Parthenon marbles in October 2013. It is worth noting that this issue has been a standing item on its agenda since 1984. The only response from the British Government in 12 months, and that only when asked, is that it will respond in due course. It is difficult to see what difference this new stipulation will make, other than moral pressure on the British Government, for what that is worth.
There is no legal mechanism to make the British Government comply. Even if it did agree to comply, that would only be the start of a long process. Presumably both parties would have to agree to mutually acceptable mediators, a predictably lengthy process. Then both sides would presumably have the right to offer evidence in a quasi judicial process. Then eventually, if a decision is reached, perhaps there might be a right of appeal. Finally, if a decision were made in favour of reunification, the British Government would have to repeal or amend the British Museum Act (1963) to make it legally possible for the British Museum Trustees to divest themselves of this cultural property held in their trust.
Add to this the competition on the right of British politics to show the most macho opposition to any hint of outside diktat to the British Government and we are talking of not just months but probably years. So, a quick fix it is not. But if the eventual outcome is reunification it is a journey worth travelling.
Eddie O'Hara, Chairman
Giving the sculptures from the Parthenon displayed in the UK back to Greece, would be a grand gesture on cultural and ethical grounds
14 October, 2014. Today Amal Clooney and Geoffrey Robertson will tour the Acropolis Museum and hold talks with the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Konstantinos Tasoulas, the Culture Minister- as Athens renews its call for the reunification of the sculptures from the Parthenon.
Eddie O'Hara, chairman of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon sculptures maintains that 'giving the schulptures from the Parthenon, displayed in the UK back to Greece, would be a grand gesture on cultural and ethical grounds.'
Two years from now, 2016 - will mark the 200th anniversary of the purchase by the British Government of the sculptures that Lord Elgin removed from the Parthenon in Athens - when Greece was under Ottoman rule.
Their removal was criticised by Byron, among others, who denounced Lord Elgin as a vandal, and wrote in a poem "Dull is the eye that will not weep to see, Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed, By British hands ..."
Britain's refusal to return the marbles, also known as the Parthenon friezes, was a matter of shame, said Mr O'Hara, a former Labour MP for Knowsley South in Merseyside.
"Every time an international visitor sees them, that's to the discredit of the UK. Giving them back would be a grand gesture on cultural and ethical grounds.
"This monument has a special place in Western civilisation and it should have its integrity restored."
The friezes should be returned as "soon as possible" the British Committee argues.
Article by Nick Squires, in Athens for the Telegraph and to read the on line version, click here
Cultural heritage, the unity of the sculptures from the Parthenon and doing the right thing
We wish them every succes with their endeavours and reflect on the British Committee's founder, Mrs Eleni Cubitt's own words of wisdow
Imagine how wonderful it would be to create unity for the sculptures from the Parthenon and be able to celebrate this unity, whilst we still can.
“We live in difficult times, facing many difficult issue, some perhaps so big, they may not be resolved for decades to come and certainly after my time. The continued fragmentation of the Parthenon marbles need not be an unresolved matter. The superlative new Acropolis Museum is the perfect place to reunite the surviving fragmented pieces of this peerless work of art.”
By shifting attention onto a more positive path and by concentrating on the benefits of reunification, the acclaimed British Museum and its well respected director, Neil MacGregor, would put right a very old wrong and in so doing, they could be justifiably proud. It would demonstrate strong ethical and moral leadership, proving to the global community that there is a way forward for the reunification of the Parthenon sculptures.
"Cultural heritage should refer to those objects which are of central significance and vital importance to the sense of identity and dignity of any human group and whose removal by force or deception or even ignorance could cause great sorrow, pain and outrage to people who believe such objects belong to them as an integral and essential part of their history and their heritage.” Mrs Eleni Cubit, Founder for the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles www.parthenonuk.com