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Culture

Prof. David Rudenstine Discusses Upcoming Parthenon Marbles Case Symposium

April 17, 2022

NEW YORK – The Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, the FAME Center and the Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic present The Parthenon Marbles Case and the Universal Museum Myth: Policies and Politics on Thursday, April 28, 9:30 AM-4:45 PM.

This symposium will bring together leading scholars and advocates to discuss the history of cultural property, their rightful owners and whether the property should be returned to the original creating country. Professor David Rudenstine will present his decades-long historical research challenging the British Museum’s claim in the cultural property dispute between Greece and Great Britain over the Parthenon Sculptures taken to London in the early 1800s by the British ambassador, Lord Elgin. Dean Melanie Leslie will make opening remarks.

Prof. Rudenstine, the Sheldon H. Solow Professor of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, spoke with The National Herald about the event and his research into the case.

Professor David Rudenstine. Photo: Courtesy of Cardozo School of Law

TNH: When did you first become aware of the case for the return of the Parthenon Marbles?

Prof. David Rudenstine: Mid-1990s – I began to focus on the controversy.

TNH: How did the conference come about?

DR: This was an idea I had together with Prof. Irini Stamatoudi (in Athens). Irini had been concerned with the Parthenon Marbles case for many years and has participated in many negotiations Committees with the British. Once we decided to go forward with a conference, Elena Korka (also in Athens) joined us.

The conference will focus on new discoveries concerning the historical circumstances surrounding Lord Elgin’s securing his collection. Presentations will be made that completely undermine the British Museum’s historic position that Ottoman authorities gave Lord Elgin prior written permission to strip the world renowned sculptures from the high walls of the Parthenon. The presentations will also establish that the 1816 Parliamentary Committee that recommended the purchase of the Elgin collection materially misrepresented the contents of a central document, and that the British Museum has continued in this misrepresentation. The conference will examine contemporary trends and policies and explore how they favor the unification of the Parthenon Marbles in Athens. The conference will also offer a reassessment of the role of internationally prominent museums in an era when cultural property restitution claims are receiving substantial respect.

TNH: What can attendees look forward to at the conference?

DR: They will come away with a new and important understanding of the invalidity of the British Museum’s long-standing claim that it rightfully possesses the Parthenon Marbles because the Ottomans granted Lord Elgin prior written permission. They will gain a better understanding of contemporary policies and trends and how they greatly favor the reunification of the Parthenon marbles in Athens.

TNH: Why, in your opinion, has this case lingered on for so long?

DR: The Parthenon Marbles are historic, priceless, and majestic. The British Museum does not want to surrender them. Thus, the museum resists every overture to reconsider the ethics and legality of what Lord Elgin did, as well as its own conduct over the decades.

TNH: Should we be more hopeful today that the Marbles will soon be returned to Athens?

DR: In a word – yes. The British Museum’s continued retention of the Parthenon Marbles puts the museum on the wrong side of history. In time, this wrong will be corrected. The Parthenon is the single icon representing the best that western civilization has to offer. The marbles are intrinsic to the Parthenon, and they constitute a unitary presentation told through magisterial sculptures. It is long past the time that what was once a single work of art constituting dozens of extraordinary sculptures be united in its place or origin.

Register online for The Parthenon Marbles Case and the Universal Museum Myth: Policies and Politics: https://bit.ly/36gPbpp.

The Symposium program follows:

Panel 1: 9:30 AM- History Surrounding the Removal of the Sculptures and the U.K. Purchase of Elgin’s Collection

Panelists: Elena Korka, Honorary Director General, Antiquities and Cultural Heritage of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports; David Rudenstine, Professor, Cardozo School of Law; Giovanna Bellesia, Department Chair of Italian and German Studies, Smith College

Panel 2: 11 AM

Should the British Museum Return the Collection to Athens?

Panelists: Irini Stamatoudi, Professor, University of Nicosia; Elizabeth Marlowe, Professor, Colgate University; Kris Tytgat, President, International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures

Luncheon Address: 12:30 PM

Panelists: Dimitrios Pandermalis, President, Acropolis Museum and Lina Mendoni, Minister of Culture and Sports, Cabinet of Kyriakos Mitsotakis

Panel 3: 1:30 PM

The Universal Museum Myth

Moderator: Irini Stamatoudi, Professor, University of Nicosia

Panelists: Patty Gerstenblith, Professor, DePaul College of Law; Elena Korka, Honorary Director General, Antiquities and Cultural Heritage of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports; Joe Baker, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Lenape Center

Panel 4: 3:15 PM

Cultural Property & International Human Rights Trends

Moderator: Sandy Cobden ’90, Deputy General Counsel, Pactiv Evergreen Inc.

Panelists: Lawrence Kaye, Partner, Herrick, Feinstein LLP; Leila Amineddoleh, Founder, Amineddoleh & Associates LLC; Kristen Carpenter, Professor of Law, University of Colorado

New York State CLE Credit: This program of four online panels is approved for up to 5.5 transitional/non-transitional New York State CLE credits in the category “Areas of Professional Practice.” To receive CLE credits for a panel, you must attend that part of the program “live.” We cannot award CLE credits for watching a recorded version of any part of this program.

If you plan on receiving CLE credit, please register for a free CLE ticket by 5 PM the night preceding the event.

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