Greece has been urging the UK for decades to return pieces of marble and sculptures from the Parthenon and Acropolis in Athens. The dispute is old but may be resolved. The president of the British Museum in London said he was ready for an agreement to partially return the pieces.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, Greece has been demanding the return of 75 meters of fries taken from the Parthenon to the English capital. The Mediterranean nation still needs one of the marble carriages that supports a small temple on the Acropolis in Athens, which is one of the treasures of the British Museum.
Through a purchase by the British diplomat Lord Elgin in 1802, the pieces were resold to the museum, and the UK always refused to refund on the basis of legal ownership of the pieces. However, Greece claims that the pieces were plundered during the Ottoman occupation of their territory.
In March, the issue came up again when a case was filed against the British Museum for blocking 3D scanning of marble pieces. The Oxford Institute of Digital Archeology intended to produce a three-dimensional version of the Greek pieces, to expand access to the material and resolve the dispute between Athens and London, the director of the institute told the Guardian newspaper.
In April, Boris Johnson’s government even said it would begin talks with the Greek government before UNESCO. However, the government backed down, saying the decision was up to the museum.
This week, the President of the British Museum made a statement showing his readiness to resolve the issue. In an interview with LBC Radio, George Osborne said he was ready for a deal to share the pieces.
“I believe an agreement can be reached in Athens and London to tell their story at the same time if this situation is discussed without too many preconditions or obstacles,” he said.
Asked if he could exhibit in Greece for a while and then return to London, he said such discussions were possible. “One that allows you to see them in all their glory in Athens and see them as examples of other civilizations in London,” he explained.
The majority of public opinion in the UK is in favor of returning parts. According to a recent survey conducted by the British Ugly Institute, 59% of respondents believe that pieces should be returned. Eight years ago, the proportion of the population in favor of returning work was only 37%.
During the colonial period, European cultural institutions increased the pressure to return pieces taken from their countries. In 2021, the University of Cambridge returned to Nigeria with the bronze work it had plundered a century ago.
Arranged with ancient fragments from civilizations around the world, the British Museum has so far refused to discuss the restoration of the works.
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