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The Elgin marbles

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Elgins stay in the UK, says British Museum chief

New row about Elgin marbles

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Smith 'livid' at Whitehall memo on marbles

UN snubbed by Britain on return of treasures

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Museum stays a treasure house of secrecy

2.45pm update

Elgin marbles will never leave UK, says museum chief

Imogen Tilden
Tuesday January 15, 2002

The Parthenon sculptures will never be returned to Greece, Robert Anderson, the director of the British Museum where they are housed, has declared.

Pressure had been put on the museum to loan the marbles to Greece for an exhibition timed to coincide with the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. A museum is being built to house the sculptures but Mr Anderson, writing in today's Times, stated that he had not received any such loan request.

Intead, he attacked Greece's current storage facilities of the remaining blocks of the Parthenon. "There is urgent need in Athens of a proper building for displaying the many sculptures of the Parthenon and other treasures that are currently lumbered in store-rooms... If symbolic gestures for 2004 are called for, there could be none better than Greece making sure that it properly displays what is already has."

Rather than the unscrupulous vandal that some believe Lord Elgin to have been, Mr Anderson suggested he was a far-sighted patron and saviour of Britain's cultural heritage. "We are indebted to Elgin for having rescued the Parthenon sculptures and others from the Acropolis from the destruction they were suffering."

The issue of nationalism is dismissed - "the British Museum transcends national boundaries; it has never been a museum of British culture, it is a museum of the world, and its purpose is to display the works of mankind of all periods and of all places. The idea of cultural restitution is the anathema of this principle."

His comments come ahead of a new campaign for the return of the collection by 2004, spearheaded by leading actors and MPs. Last week, Mark Jones, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum added his penny's worth by suggesting a new solution - sharing them.

"There must be a possibility that something could now work for all parties," said Mr Jones. "I cannot tell another museum how to behave on this, but I do believe it is possible to develop partnerships. It can be good to display objects at different places."

Evangelos Venizelos, the Greek minister of culture, said last year that he had no interest in disputing the sculptures' legal ownership. "I accept the possibility of a long-term loan because the most important problem is the restitution of the marbles."

However, Mr Anderson raised doubt whether such a solution was viable. "The museum owns the collections, but its trustees are not empowered to dispose of them. The limit on their powers extends to loans, where there can be no guarantee of an object being returned.

"The museum has neither the power to assent to such a loan nor does it wish to offer its agreement to a proposal which is transparently against the interests of the many visitors who flock to the British Museum from all over the world," he said.

Related articles
An interactive guide to the Elgin marbles
20.08.2001: Greece presses for loan deal on Elgin marbles
10.7.01: Who should have the Elgin marbles?
22.06.2001: Greek weapon in fight for marbles
14.04.2001: New row about Elgin marbles
05.12.2000: Greek snub to British Museum over marbles
16.11.2000: Gods of the underground demand statues' return retribution
06.06.2000: PM rejects Greek push for marbles

Useful links
Comment Robert Anderson: 'The marbles are staying put'
The marbles' history
UK government information on cultural property
An account of the marbles' overcleaning in 1937
A Greek campaign for the marbles' return
The British Museum
BBC coverage of the controversy
Complete copy of the Parthenon Frieze at Hammerwood Park
Elgin Marbles Index


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