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The Daily Telegraph: British Public Opinion in Favor of Parthenon Marbles’ Return to Greece

November 20, 2021

ATHENS – Two articles published in British newspapers The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian directly support arguments for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum to Greece, penned only a few days after Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ London visit, who raised the issue in his meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

A 56 pct of people who participated in a public opinion poll by pollsters YouGov stated that the Parthenon Marbles, currently on display at the British Museum, should be exhibited in Greece, while only one in five people (20 pct) said they should remain in the United Kingdom, according to the Telegraph.

The article is written by the Telegraph’s Associate Editor Gordon Rayner, who interviewed Mitsotakis ahead of the Greek premier’s visit to the UK, thus broadly publicizing Greece’s demand to the British public.

Rayner highlights the fact that pressure on the matter does not come exclusively from the Greek side, but also from UNESCO’s cultural heritage panel, which has poignantly criticized the conditions under which these cultural treasures are exhibited at the British Museum, while it recently said that their return to Greece is a translational issue. This observation, says the Telegraph, seems to weaken Boris Johnson’s justification that UK ministers cannot get involved in the matter because the Parthenon Marbles belong to the British Museum.

Greece’s stance, the Telegraph continues, is also strengthened by an apparently growing trend among major European museums in favor of returning antiquities and artefacts seized from third countries.

There is definitely a shift in that direction, as museums in Europe and elsewhere are changing their attitude towards repatriation, Alexander Herman, author of ‘Restitution: The Return of Cultural Artefacts’, told the Telegraph. This trend has grown stronger in the last five years, as more countries with a colonial past, including Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, seem to be moving in that direction, he added.

The British Museum is obviously lagging behind recent developments, actress and head of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles Janet Suzman told the Telegraph. The committee was formed in 1983, inspired by former culture minister Melina Mercouri’s appeal to help return the Parthenon Marbles to Athens, at the International Conference of Ministers of Culture in Mexico in 1982.

The British Museum’s argument [if a cultural treasure is returned to any one country other return demands will follow] no longer reflects reality, noted Suzman, calling it a ‘finders-keepers’ mentality. Anyone visiting Athens can tell it’s where the Marbles really should be, she noted.

The Guardian: Do not hamper the Marbles’ return

A British government will, eventually, return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, the Guardian’s columnist and author Simon Jenkins writes in his article on Saturday. Paradigms of large museums having returned important exhibits to countries of origin are more than a few, he argues, and urges UK PM Boris Johnson to be the one to be credited with this important decision.

Paris is returning stolen artifacts from southeast Asia and Senegal, and the Benin Bronzes have been returned to Nigeria from Cambridge, Aberdeen, Germany and France, writes Jenkins, adding that even London has returned a large part of the Great Sphinx.

The debate over the repatriation of such important artefacts, says Jenkins, has taken on a fresh dimension thanks to the development of 3D printing, a technology that allows for exact copies of ancient artefacts, using even the same type of stone or marble.

Plans are already underway to build copies of some of the historic monuments destroyed by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, he continues. With Greeks eager to see the original cultural treasures return to the Acropolis Museum, he argues, copies could replace the sculptures exhibited at the British Museum today.

If Londoners want to see the aesthetic lures of the art of Greek sculpture, they can, he says, as technology can copy them the same way it copies famous statues across Europe; but do not hamper the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, the Guardian’s columnist pointed out.

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