Thursday, September 20, 2012

Greece prepares for fresh assault on the British Museum over the Parthenon Marbles

The Greek Ministry of Culture has just announced that it will re-establish a special advisory committee to coordinate actions aimed at securing the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum. The president of the Melina Mercouri Foundation, Christoforos Argyropoulos; archaeologist Dr Elena Korka; attorney Irini Stamatoudi, who heads the Intellectual Property Organisation; and foreign ministry representative Panos Kalogeropoulos were listed as members of the committee, announced by Alternate Culture Minister Costas Tzavaras on Wednesday.
"Greece's moral right is above every objection that is based on arguments aired as mere delay tactics, and aiming to brush aside the basic principle that is universally applied, namely, the necessity of cultural monuments to be repatriated, meaning a return to the place of their origin," Mr Tzavaras said.
That word "universally" jumps off the page. I'm not so sure the British Museum — the self-styled "universal" museum par excellence — would subscribe to any principle, basic or otherwise, that would support the repatriation of cultural monuments to their place of origin.

Meanwhile, December could be crunch time for the Greek economy, with commentators of every stripe queuing up to predict Greece's exit from the Eurozone. Were that to happen it would surely increase the desire for repatriation of the Marbles as Greece seeks to reassemble its sense of national pride and cultural identity. If the Marbles are essential to the British Museum's tourist revenues — which we know them to be — it logically follows that they would bring a similar benefit to the New Acropolis Museum were they to be installed where they belong in the new museum's beautiful Parthenon Galleries.

It will be interesting to see whether this new cultural committee manages (where past initiatives have signally failed) to maintain its momentum and presses its claim through the proper diplomatic channels with a tough follow-through.

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