The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Greeks could be allowed to borrow the Parthenon Marbles

Continuing the theme, I've just spotted this article. Suggests a significant softening of attitude on behalf of the British Museum with regard to that perennial thorny issue much debated by museum studies students everywhere, I'm sure. ;)

4 comments:

Ceri said...

Well a softening in that he was asked a direct question by the journalist and had to respond! But what annoys me is that the Museum sees themselves as the 'owners.' Perhaps this need to keep the marbles is all based on economics and the need to protect the 'brand' of the museum? Can cultural relics of the past really belong to anyone when those who made them are now dead and gone? The museums should be the custodians but the idea of buying and selling... well I guess it is common enough that antiques sell I do not know why I am so surprised.

Amy said...

I think the key to all this is the following comment:

"Eleni Corka, an official in the Greek Culture Ministry, told the BBC: “I believe that if we discuss the issue we will find ground which will be suitable and solutions which will be profitable for both sides.” "

Sadly, it all comes down to money in the end.

Kostas said...

This is indeed an interesting, yet ambiguous development.

Some Greek newspapers see this statement as no news, in the sense that Neil MacGregor insists on the issue of ownership. Anthony Snodgrass (Emeritus Professor in Cambridge) from the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles notes that "MacGregor's offer is purely theoretical. MacGregor knows that no Greek Government would ever accept officially that the British Museum has legal ownership of the marbles" (my translation from Greek news). If so, MacGregor plays it safe.

However, the timing of the statement is interesting:
a. It comes at the moment that 6 ancient vases are returned to Greece: they were in the possesion of Professory Martin Robertson, who in his will asked them to be returned to Greece. They were returned by his son yesterday.

b. Also, on the 4th of May there is a meeting in London (organised by UNESCO) of officials from the Greek Ministry of Culture, the British Museum and the DCMS. The subject of the meeting is the potential exhibition of the marbles in the new Acropolis Museum.

In this context, perhaps MacGregor prepares the ground?

Regarding the word 'profitable': I believe it's bad translation from Greek, or if she spoke in English, use of the wrong word. The Greek word must have been "ωφέλιμες" (ofelimes), which means beneficial. Even if she has used the word "κερδοφόρες" (kerdofores) the Greek word for profitable, this word in Greek does not have only a monetary meaning: profit (kerdos) can also be of other type.

Don't take me wrong, I am not trying to justify anything. I do believe that both the BM and the Greek museums have both benefited AND profited from this ongoing debate. But, it is unlikely that she used the word profitable with the literal meaning it has in English.

Amy said...

Ah! Thanks for clearing that up Kostas and for your comments - it's good to get another perspective on the issue. It sounds to me that the BM, institutionally, can foresee itself and its collections of ancient Greek material once again coming under the spotlight imminently, and is trying to deflect likely criticisms or unwelcome attention, by being seen to be offering an olive branch on the Parthenon Marbles issue, even if it is only playing it safe. Really interesting stuff!