2016 Archived News

200 years of the Marbles


You wouldn't automatically think that Dr Ian Jenkins (chief curator at the British Museum) would naturally be a friend to the BCRPM (British Committee for the Reubification of the Parthenon Marbles), but he is not our enemy either, and he is a personal friend of mine, as well as an admired colleague and expert on Classical Greek sculpture and architectural sculpture.


In the article (September/October 2016  British Archaeology), which was written to mark 200 years since the British government's decision in June 1816 to purchase Lord Elgin's collection of Parthenon (and other) Marbles, and which starts off by noting the latest (July 11) Parliamentary bid to have them restored to their native Athens, he provides a most succinct and pointed resume of the current state of play: how they came into Elgin's possession and then the British Museum's custodianship, what they represent, and what pieces of the Parthenon are not in the British Museum (and not in the new Acropolis Museum, either...).



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Of course Dr Ian Jenkins is not nearly harsh enough on the current, anti-historical mode of their display in the Duveen Gallery; for that, see Mary Beard's short book. But he doesn't disguise the ill treatment the marbles have suffered in the BM both deliberately and accidentally over the years. Altogether this is a very worthwhile short companion to his several scholarly articles and major monographs: