Acropolis Museum and Lord Elgin

Athens Parthenon Lord Elgin

After four years of visiting Athens on the way to a Greek island-hopping holiday I  finally managed to see the new Acropolis Museum in September 2009.  It was originally planned to be completed in 2004 to accompany the return of the Olympic Games to their spiritual Athenian home but construction setbacks and various outbreaks of controversy along the way have meant that it did not finally open to the expectant public until June 2009.

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Athens Parthenon Acropolis

3 responses to “Acropolis Museum and Lord Elgin

  1. Apologies for the the narrative you encountered whilst visiting the new Acropolis Museum. And for the the demonising of Lord Elgin and the unnecessary nationalist, provocative and belligerent anti-English sentiment attached to the explanations and the video commentary in the new Acropolis museum……. I guess when a ‘collector’ of great works of art brutally removes something from where it belonged, you can say that for many people (all around the world, not just in Greece) its going to be a thorn in the side and 207 years later that thorn is still there. I can forgive this narrative as after all when one visits the British Museum’s Duveen Gallery – one is misled too and I definetly feel uncomfortable. The leaflet leads visitors to believe that there are so many more fragments in other museums that the booty which is in the British Museum is perfectly acceptable. The frieze is exhibited at the wrong level and facing inwards, making even less sense.

    Assuming Elgin ‘saved’ the Marbles he brought back to Britain, those left on the Acropolis, which you saw in the new museum seem to have faired equally well?

    Let us not forget that Lord Elgin’s expressed intention was always to transport the Marbles to his ancestral seat in Scotland where they would be displayed as trophies in the tradition established by aristocratic collectors returning from the Grand Tour. He fell on hard times and had to sell them to the British Museum in order to survive, not sure how this equates to ‘saving’ the sculptures. Nobody with genuine archaeological interest in ancient Greek sculpture would ever have countenanced the disfiguring of such a beautiful and important ancient monument in the way that Lord Elgin did.

    Putting all this aside, respect for others and their cultural property/heritage is morally and ethically very important. It would therefore be great if the the British Museum were to return the Parthenon Sculptures to Athens. At the moment the British Museum’s Director, Neil MacGregor is asking for Greece to acknowledge Britain’s ownership of these sculptures before he can enter into any discussions. Something that is impossible for any Greek person and makes me feel very uncomfortable – I guess for some this would equate to belligerent anti-Greek sentiment on the part of the British Museum?

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    • Thanks for this comment. I think I have made it clear that I agree with the case for returning the sculptures to Athens. What I am challenging is the tactics that the museum is using to make the case. I am sure they will be returned eventually – the sooner the better. I like the website by the way.

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  2. Pingback: Greece 2009 – Athens, from Elgin to pickpockets, a city of thieves « Have Bag, Will Travel

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