Speaking of museums
- the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum
I saw this in the news today ....
Greece Renews Call for Parthenon Marbles Return as Museum Opens
Ancient gods and centaurs flickered to life, horses, owls and deer danced across the Athenian skyline, and statues of ancient girls blinked and tossed their hair as Greece opened its New Acropolis Museum, pressing its case that artworks from the 5th century B.C. Acropolis should all be housed together.
“If Pericles’ Acropolis was a hymn to beauty, harmony and liberty, the Acropolis Museum today is the Ark which brings together all of the ideas that the Parthenon has stood for ever, since antiquity,” Greece’s Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis said in a speech. The museum can help bring “the reunification of the Parthenon marbles. Because the Parthenon marbles speak in their entirety. This is the way to show the integrity of everything they stand for.”
Amid tight security and with a backdrop of animated scenes from the collection in the 130 million-euro ($181 million) museum, Greece is renewing its campaign to retrieve the Elgin Marbles, the sculptures taken from the Parthenon’s frieze to Britain 207 hundred years ago and housed in the British Museum. The ceremony was broadcast live on Greek TV and online.
Completed three decades after the first call for a design, and after court cases and archaeological finds delayed construction, the museum is Greece’s answer to the British Museum’s argument that there’s nowhere to house the Marbles .... Successive U.K. governments have said the marbles won’t be returned. British Museum director Neil MacGregor, in a 2007 interview, said objects could in theory be loaned for up to six months, though this would be impossible while the Greek government refused to acknowledge the Museum as the legal owner. Samaras said this month that would be unacceptable to any Greek government ....
Here's a little bit about the Elgin Marbles from Wikipedia ....
The Elgin Marbles, also known as the Parthenon Marbles, are a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures, inscriptions and architectural members that originally belonged to the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens. Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799–1803, had obtained a controversial permission from the Ottoman authorities to remove pieces from the Acropolis. From 1801 to 1812 Elgin's agents removed about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as architectural members and sculpture from the Propylaea and Erechtheum. The Marbles were transported by sea to Britain. In Britain, Elgin was criticised for his actions, labelled by some as vandalism, and some contemporaries described him as a looter. However, following a public debate in Parliament and subsequent exoneration of Elgin's actions, the marbles were purchased by the British Government in 1816 and placed on display in the British Museum, where they stand now on view in the purpose-built Duveen Gallery. The legality of the removal has been questioned and the debate continues as to whether the Marbles should remain in the British Museum or be returned to Athens ....
I think the marbles should be given back to Greece. Most of the big European and US museums have ancient art and art from third world countries that's been unethically if not outright illegally lifted, usually after a military conquest, but sometimes in a more Indiana Jones manner. It wasn't until 1954 after the huge amount of Nazi art looting that the Hague Convention defined significant antiquities as "cultural property" and the "national patrimony" of states where they were found.
The British Museum is not the only museum with Greek art asked for back ..... Vatican City: Greek Bishop Asks Pope to Return Piece of Parthenon - In his first official visit to the Vatican, Archbishop Christodoulos, the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, asked Pope Benedict XVI to return a piece of the Parthenon held in the Vatican Museums, Greek officials said. According to spokesmen for Christodoulos, Benedict was a bit perplexed by the request, perhaps not knowing that the vast collection included a fragment of the ancient building. He said he would consider the request, they said .... Wonder if anything came of that request.
If you're interested in the subject, The University of Wisconsin has a good article on the subject - The Looting of Art/The Art of Looting