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Parthenon Sculptures Should Return to Greece, the British Say in New Poll

Partnenon Sculptures
Parthenon Sculptures at the British Museum, part of the frieze. Credit: TxIIxT TxIIxT/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

The Parthenon Sculptures currently exhibited at the British Museum should return to Greece, the majority of Britons say in a new poll.

Two articles published in British newspapers The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian directly support arguments for the return of the precious marbles to their home.

The reports came only after Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited London and raised the issue in his meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

A public opinion poll by pollsters YouGov shows that 56 percent of participants stated that the Parthenon Sculptures should be exhibited in Greece, while only 20 percent said they should remain in the United Kingdom, according to the Daily Telegraph.

UNESCO on Greece’s side

The Telegraph story was written by 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 has been added by UNESCO’s cultural heritage committee, which has poignantly criticized the conditions under which these cultural treasures are exhibited at the British Museum.

UNESCO also said that their return to Greece is a transnational issue. According to The Telegraph, this seems to weaken 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.

Museums change the attitude towards repatriation

Several museums in Europe and elsewhere have changed 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, Herman added.

However, the British Museum does not seem to adapt to this new trend, 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 is that if a cultural treasure is returned to any one country, there will be more return demands.

Suzman called the attitude of the British Museum a ‘finders-keepers’ mentality. She argued that any visitor to Athens can tell where the Marbles really should be.

The Guardian: A British government will return the Parthenon Marbles

A British government will, eventually, return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, the Guardian’s columnist and author Simon Jenkins wrote on Saturday.

Jenkins gives several examples of large museums having returned precious exhibits to countries of origin and urges the British PM 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, Jenkins wrote, adding that even London has returned a large part of the Great Sphinx to Egypt.

Museums can have exact copies of ancient artifacts

Jenkins said that thanks to the development of 3D printing, museums can now exhibit exact copies of ancient artifacts, using even the same type of stone or marble.

This can make the repatriation of ancient artifacts easier, as museums can replace the exhibits with exact copies and return the artifacts to the rightful owners.

Plans are already underway to build copies of some of the historic monuments destroyed by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, Jenkins added.

In that respect, Greeks will finally see the original cultural treasures return to the Acropolis Museum, while the British Museum can replace the Parthenon Sculptures exhibited with exact copies.

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