Britain may share controversial Parthenon Marbles with Greece, suggests president of British Museum

The president of the British Museum in London has stated that he is willing to work with Greece to share the Parthenon Marbles.

The British Museum’s Parthenon Marbles are a contentious aspect of its collection.

The sculptures were dismantled and transported to Britain in the early 1800s on the orders of the 7th Earl of Elgin, a British diplomat, and aristocrat. They were built in the 5th century BCE as part of the Acropolis of Athens.

Greece has been requesting the reinstatement of the 75-meter-long frieze since the start of the twentieth century.

The statues were legitimately acquired, according to the British Museum. Dr. Jonathan Williams, the deputy director of the British Museum, stated in 2022 that “much of the frieze was in fact retrieved from the wreckage around the Parthenon,” rather than sawed off the edifice.

During the Ottoman conquest of Greece, Greece alleges Elgin “looted” the statues.

The British government has also maintained that because the sculptures are the property of a privately held museum, it has no say in whether or not they should be repatriated.

UNESCO said last month that it will help organize talks between the two countries over the return of the stones.

For the museum, it’s time for a change of pace.

Now, George Osborne, the president of the British Museum and the UK’s ex-chancellor, has stated that “a deal is to be done where we can tell both tales in Athens and London if we both approach this without a lot of preconditions, without a load of red lines.”

“Sensible people might put something together that makes the most of the Parthenon marbles,” he remarked, “but if either side insists there’s no give at all, there won’t be a settlement.”

When asked if some of the marbles may be temporarily restored to Greece before being brought to London, Osborne said, “This kind of arrangement would be doable.” He did say, though, that he couldn’t speak for the trustees.

The British Museum likewise issued a statement indicating a possible shift in their long-standing attitude.

“The museum is always willing to examine requests to borrow any pieces from the collection,” according to the statement, which also noted that the museum lends 4,000 to 5,000 objects each year.

“These wonderful works of art are beloved by a global community, and we feel that public access should be at the forefront of these talks; too frequently, discussions focus on the legalistic and adversarial backdrop rather than on how to share the sculptures with a larger audience… “Deepening public access, as well as developing new ways and possibilities for collections to be shared and understood around the world, remains at the heart of what the British Museum aspires to achieve,” the statement read.

Perspectives regarding antiquities are shifting.

According to the latest survey by the British institute Yougov, 59 percent of respondents believe the marbles taken by Lord Elgin belong to Greece, up from 37 percent in 2014.

In general, there is increasing demand on European cultural institutions to repatriate looted artifacts from the colonial past.

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Last year, the University of Cambridge, for the first time in the United Kingdom, repatriated a bronze rooster sculpture looted a century ago to Nigeria.

The British Museum, which has the world’s greatest bronze collection, has so far declined to follow suit.

When the UNESCO talks were originally revealed, Evangelos Kyriakidis, director of The Heritage Management Organisation, spoke with Euronews about how important the Parthenon marbles are to Greek culture.

“It’s all about sovereignty.” It is completely incorrect to have a Greek national symbol in a museum called the British Museum. He described it as “as if the Crown Jewels were in Greece.”

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