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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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 London referred 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 its 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.
On Friday 20 June, the exhibition areas and restaurant will remain open from 8 a.m. until 12 midnight, admission to the Museum will be reduced to 3 euros for all visitors.
At 21:30 a music concert by Leon of Athens will take place at the entrance courtyard of the Museum. Visitors will have the chance to listen to their favorite songs from the two albums released so far (‘Futrue’ and ‘Global’) and remixes.
Timoleon Veremis, better known on the artistic circuit as Leon, was born in London 28 years ago. He began to dabble in music from a very young age and in 2010, came out with his debut record - 'Futrue'. This year, Leon of Athens with a brand new band, launched 'Global'.
For the Acropolis Museum annual report, please click here
A message from Dimitrios Pandermalis, President of the Acropolis Museum
On Friday, the 20th June 2014 the new Acropolis Museum celebrates its first five years of operation. The over 6.5 million visitors in that period and the satisfaction commonly expressed about the quality of its services is public testament to the Museum's contribution. It is no accident that one in four visitors has visited the Museum on two or more occasions in the past year.
A unique achievement internationally has been the Museum's ability to totally self-fund its operations since opening - indeed during five most difficult years of the economic crisis. Careful management by the Museum's administration, targeted choices around expenditure, the continuous improvement and expansion of the permanent exhibition, the intense efforts of staff and the warm reception from the public all contributed to this result. We hope that the apparent recovery of the national economy will secure the necessary resources to enable even more rapid development of the Museum.
In the past year significant success was also achieved with work on the collections. The program focusing on the colors of the sculptures was greeted with enthusiasm by both visitors and experts. The diverse reconstructions of details on marble copies, on cast copies and with digital modeling allowed visitors to obtain a complete picture of the ancient sculptures and to creatively stimulate their interest.
In the Parthenon Gallery the three dimensional scanning of the frieze provided its first results through four clear and impressive digital applications that highlight the original carving process of the frieze, its enrichment with bronze attachments, its violent separation and its digital restoration. New technologies are increasingly finding their place in the Museum galleries offering essential tools to aid the understanding of the great exhibits. The Museum is consistently conscious of the need to maintain the necessary balance between the authentic exhibit and the digital image it offers to visitors.
The production of exact cast copies of original works in the collection continued with particular care, and with an avid interest in the accurate presentation of detail and in some cases, the remaining traces of exhibit polychromy. A successful attempt to produce precise reduced scale copies was made, in this way making large exhibits accessible to the public.
In its five years of operation the Museum has serviced large crowds with an on-average of over 3000 visitors daily. Staff met the challenge through continuous vigilance and by making a sustained effort to maintain high standards of service. For the Museum, it is particularly important that visitors are comfortable; that they develop their own personal experience in the galleries and that they feel personally welcomed in spite of comprising the individual members of a crowd.
In the first six months of 2014 during the Greek Presidency of the European Union, the Museum received a large number of political leaders, senior officials and support staff to whom our ever obliging staff presented the Museum's emblematic works. The Museum's facilities and services were made available to support the many meetings, conferences and seminars of the Presidency, as well as our restaurant with its spectacular views of the Rock of the Acropolis.
In its first five years of life the Acropolis Museum has fulfilled our country's high expectations and succeeded in being recognized amongst the three best museums in the world. Now it requires the State, to recognize its contribution and to address the key administrative issues associated with its operation, so that it can continue to develop without impediment.
The late Melina Mercouri began a great campaign, which captured the interest of many. Amongst the interested in the early 80's was the founder of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, British architect James Cubitt. He met with Melina Mercouri and Jules Dassin to suggest the creation of the BCRPM but sadly died after the committee was set up in 1982. His wife Eleni Cubitt, for decades continued to work tirelessly guided by some distinguished chairmen to communicate, educate and explain why a fragemened work of art deserved so much better.
In June 2009 this campaigning task was made effortless by the opening of the Acropolis Museum in Athens. A dream for many campaigners and although many had passed away before this significant date including the late Jules Dassin (who dies just a year before), for many more it was a great time to celebrate.
The Melina Mercouri Foundation and many campaigners around the globe continue to promote the cause and are increasingly joined by many more sports personalities, scientists, actors and actresses, artists, writers, journalists and scholars.
To a vast global community the notion of returning the Parthenon Marbles, a peerless work of art - in the superlative museum- the Acropolis Museum, makes complete, culture sense.
All supporters and campaigners will continue to make their voices heard, until the day that these beautiful, fragmented sculptures, can be reunited in Athens.
In order to raise awareness of the issue, renowned Greek soprano Sonia Theodoridou and her husband, distinguished conductor Theodoros Orphanidis, will present a unique musical performance on Pentecost, Sunday June 8th. Sonia Theodoridou will be singing arias written and composed by Pandelis Pavlides with a small orchestra of 3 musicians and 5 actors, under the direction of Elda Panopoulou.
This event will take place in the courtyard of Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in London (Moscow Road, Bayswater, London W2 4LQ) immediately after the church service at 13.00 p.m. on Sunday 8 June 2014.
Although there is a huge amount of support for the return of the sculptures to Athens amongst the majority of British people, this specific performance aims to speak to the hearts of people who know that these kinds of cultural injustices can be put right.... and the sculptures deserve to be reunited.
Anyone and everyone is welcome to attend.
On the occasion of this year’s International Museum Day, the Acropolis Museum has produced, in collaboration with the Hellenic Mint, commemorative medals dedicated to the hare of the Acropolis. The ancient Greeks knew a lot about hares, including their great speed, especially when dashing uphill, their selection of high vantage points to spot possible danger, their ability to use their long ears as a rudder when running, as well as their playfulness and amorous disposition. The commemorative medals are available in the Museum Shops.
On this day, Sunday 18 May 2014, the Museum will welcome visitors with two special gallery talks on the following topics: ‘The hare of the Acropolis’ and ‘The Moschophoros: a new display of an Acropolis masterpiece’. The Museum will be open half-day due to the municipal elections, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with free entry for all its visitors.
‘The hare of the Acropolis’
Amongst the hundreds of small votive offerings from the Acropolis (6th century BC) one that stands out is a bronze hare landing on its front legs after a spectacular leap to elude its pursuers. Visitors will have the opportunity to hear from Museum Archaeologist-Hosts attractive stories about the hare and other animals of which their bronze effigies are displayed in the Museum showcases.
‘The Moschophoros: a new display of an Acropolis masterpiece’
The Moschophoros (Calf-bearer), one of the most important sculptures of archaic Acropolis recently changed its form. Its massive leg props have been replaced with light metallic ones, which significantly improve the aesthetics of the exhibition of the sculpture. Visitors will learn from Museum Conservators the hidden aspects behind the procedure of this new display.
Gallery Talks Program:
‘The hare of the Acropolis’: at 10 a.m. in English, at 10:30 a.m. in French and at 12 noon in Greek.
‘The Moschophoros: a new display of an Acropolis masterpiece’: at 11 a.m. in Greek and at 11:30 a.m. in English.
The Gallery Talks are limited to 30 visitors per session on a first-come basis. For further details, please refer to the Information Desk at the Museum entrance.
From 01 April until 31 October, the Acropolis Museum will be open on Monday, from 8 am to 4 pm, in order to meet the expected increase in number of visitors to Athens during this period. With the above change, the Museum's opening hours will be as follows:
Monday: 8 am – 4 pm
Tuesday to Sunday: 8 am – 8 pm
Friday: 8 am – 10 pm
On Tuesday, 25th March 2014, to celebrate Greek National Independence Day, the Acropolis Museum opened free of charge from 9 am to 5 pm and offered visitors a host of exciting and informative presentations on the Parthenon.
As a unique world cultural heritage site, the Parthenon has fascinated visitors for countless centuries and for this year's celebrations of Greece's National Independence Day, provided a great opportunity for visitors to find out about the monument's decoration and architecture, its symbolism and rich history.
The presentations took place in Greek, English and French respectively with up to 30 visitors per thematic presentation.
On the same day the restaurant on the second floor of the Museum also welcomed its visitors with ' Greek traditional dishes'.
John Pienaar dedicated the last item of his Sunday 16 February Politics programme on BBC Radio 5 Live programme to the issue of the Parthenon sculptures. One of his guests, actress Dame Janet Suzman spoke about how she came to support the reunification of these sculptures.
Download and listen to the interview HERE.
"When Melina Mercouri was Culture Minister of Greece (that's how old I am) I was roped into the argument - it's an old argument.
"I'll tell you why I'm pro the marbles going back to Greece, its because that building sitting on top of the Acropolis, the Parthenon - George is not wrong in calling it a Pantheon - it is a sort of Pantheon, a kind of model of what we value in the west.
"I think that to have the ancient building still standing from the ancient world from which these beautiful sculptures wrere wrenched, makes it unique.
"There isn't another one of them where you can actually see the wound.
"I think the Greeks are right in wanting to complete the artefact that for them is the most important in the world and gives us all our values.
"It was fairly hectic the way they were stolen and shipped and then put here.
"They have been a star attraction in the British Museum - we have had them for a long time. I think Boris Johnson understandably wants to put London first in the star stakes, but the Greeks have now built a stunning museum. I've seen it. A space waiting for the marbles and it is 'their' marbles really.
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