There is a increasing global movement for the restitution of the Parthenon Marbles. With the opening of the new Acropolis Museum in Athens, pressure on the British Museum is mounting. The is a world’s best practice, state of the art museum allowing what remains of the Parthenon Marbles to be seen in the order and alignment they had on the Parthenon itself. It is a museum without walls and extensive glassed spaced that afford spectacular views of the Acropolis
The Guardian newspaper is conducting a poll of the British public on the issue, although anyone may register their vote. When I voted it was running at about 90% for restitution. What effect this will have on the museum is difficult to say. It’s governed by a Board which exists under the terms of an Act of the UK Parliament. Attempts that I’ve made as Secretary of the International Organising Committee – Australia – For The Restitution Of The Parthenon Marbles to gain a serious response from UK Prime Ministers or the British Museum have been met by a typically British game of political ping pong. It’s an obscuring and avoiding game in which the Prime Minister says that restitution is up to the British Museum’s Board of Trustees and the Board of Trustees says it’s operations are circumscribed by an Act of Parliament.
The sculptures that Lord Elgin took from Athens, in some cases literally having them sawn off the Parthenon, were stored in his coal shed and garden for a while, in the relatively acidic environment of Scotland, before being sold to the British government. Later the collection was vested in the Trustees of The British Museum in perpetuity, under the terms of the Local and Personal Acts 56 George III c.99 of 1816. Further references to the status of the Parthenon Marbles are also in the British Museum Act 1963
There has been a consistent lack of political will in Britain to amend these Acts. Arguments for the retention of the sculptures have ranged from, they’re ours and we acquired them legally to we’ve protected them from neglect. Later in this blog I’ll smmarise the arguments and the counter aguments, but all we eventually be accessible on the new website being developed by my Committee