Greece: Free our marbles from British Museum’s ‘murky prison’

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A man looks at the Parthenon Marbles, a collection of sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, on show at the British Museum in London. (Reuters)
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The 5th Century B.C. Parthenon temple atop the ancient Acropolis hill, while in the background ferries sale in the Saronic golf, in Athens. (AP Photo)
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Tourists take a picture in front of the temple of the Parthenon atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. (Reuters)
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A man looks at exhibits at the Parthenon Hall of the Acropolis museum in Athens, Greece. (Reuters)
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A man looks at the Parthenon Marbles, a collection of sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, on show at the British Museum in London. (Reuters)
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Tourists are silhouetted as they walk inside the Acropolis Museum with the temple of Parthenon in the background in Athens. (Reuters)
Updated 15 April 2019
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Greece: Free our marbles from British Museum’s ‘murky prison’

  • President Prokopis Pavlopoulos: Let the British Museum come here and make the comparison between this (Acropolis) museum of light and the murky, if I may say, prison of the British Museum
  • Britain’s Lord Elgin removed the 2,500-year-old sculptures from the Acropolis temple in Athens during a period when Greece was under Ottoman rule

ATHENS: Greece’s president called on Monday for Britain to free the Parthenon Marbles from the “murky prison” of its national museum, upping the rhetoric in a near 200-year-old campaign for the sculptures’ return.
President Prokopis Pavlopoulos spoke at Athens’ own glass-fronted Acropolis Museum, which campaigners hope will one day house the classical reliefs and figures taken by a British diplomat in the early nineteenth century.
“Let the British Museum come here and make the comparison between this (Acropolis) museum of light and the murky, if I may say, prison of the British Museum where the Parthenon Marbles are held as trophies,” Pavlopoulos said.
There was no immediate response from the British Museum.
Britain’s Lord Elgin removed the 2,500-year-old sculptures from the Acropolis temple in Athens during a period when Greece was under Ottoman rule.
They have been placed in a gallery inside the British Museum in London, lit by a long skylight.
Greece has repeatedly requested their return since its independence in 1832, and stepped up its campaign in 2009 when it opened its new museum at the foot of the Acropolis hill.
That building holds the sculptures that Elgin left behind alongside plaster casts of the missing pieces, lit by the sun coming through a glass wall looking over the original site.
“This museum can host the Marbles,” Pavlopoulos said. “We are fighting a holy battle for a monument which is unique.”
The British Museum has refused to return the sculptures, saying they were acquired by Elgin under a legal contract with the Ottoman empire.
The museum and other British institutions have also resisted other repatriation campaigns citing legislation preventing them from breaking up collections and arguing that they can preserve items and present them to an international audience.


‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition in Riyadh museum breathes new life into ancient sites 

Updated 19 April 2019
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‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition in Riyadh museum breathes new life into ancient sites 

  • National Museum in Riyadh hosts digital show that tells the story of Mosul, Palmyra, Aleppo and Leptis Magna

JEDDAH: An exhibition that uses digital technology to revive the region’s ancient sites and civilizations that have been destroyed or are under threat due to conflict and terrorism opened at the National Museum in Riyadh on April 18.

“Age-Old Cities” tells the story of four historically significant cities that have been devastated by violence: Mosul in Iraq, Palmyra and Aleppo in Syria, and Leptis Magna in Libya. 

Using stunning giant-screen projections, virtual reality, archival documents and images, and video testimonials from inhabitants of the affected sites, the immersive exhibition transports visitors back in time and presents the cities as they were in their prime. 

It charts their journey from the origins of their ancient civilizations to their modern-day state, and presents plans for their restoration and repair. 

The exhibition has been organized by the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. Riyadh is the first stop outside the French capital on the exhibition’s global tour. 

The exhibition follows last month’s unveiling of the Kingdom’s new cultural vision, which included the announcement of several initiatives, including a new residency scheme for international artists to practice in the Kingdom and the establishment of the Red Sea International Film Festival. 

Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, minister of culture, said: “I am delighted to welcome the ‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition to Riyadh. 

“It highlights the importance of heritage preservation, particularly here in the Middle East, and the vulnerability of some of our historic sites. 

“It must be the responsibility of governments to put an end to this damage and neglect, and to put heritage at the heart of action, investment, and policy.

“I will be encouraging my fellow members of government to attend this eye-opening exhibition in our National Museum, and hope to work in the future with partners, governments and experts to do what we can to secure our region’s heritage.”

The exhibition carries a significant message about the importance of preserving and protecting these precious but fragile sites — one which resonates strongly in the week when one of the world’s most-famous heritage sites, Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral, went up in flames.