The chairman of the British Museum trustees, George Osborne said he hopes he can “reach an agreement with Greece” that would see the Parthenon Marbles temporarily returned in exchange for ancient artifacts that have never been seen in the UK.
Osborne said “We may well not succeed, but we think it’s worth trying” during his speech at the annual trustees’ dinner in the Duveen Gallery – home of the Parthenon Marbles.
“I hope we can reach an agreement with Greece,” former chancellor Osborne said during his speech.
“An agreement that enables these great sculptures to be seen in Athens, as well as London.
“An agreement that allows other treasures from Greece, some that have never left those shores, to be seen here at the British Museum.
“As trustees, we look for a partnership with our Greek friends that requires no one to relinquish their claims, asks for no changes to laws which are not ours to write, but which finds a practical, pragmatic and rational way forward.”
Parthenon Marbles “important” for the British Museum
Osborne said the sculptures have always been “controversial”.
“We should not shy from that controversy,” he said. “I think too often we’ve thought let’s keep quiet, if we don’t talk about things that are difficult, then no one else will.”
Addressing the Culture, Media and Sport Committee last month, the chairman of the British Museum trustees highlighted the importance of the Marbles in the British Museum, noting their role in displaying the history of ancient Athens and its global influence.
“It’s not a particularly happy situation where we have had this stand-off with Greece for many decades, and the level of scholarship and engagement that we have with many other countries is not one that is replicated with some Greek museums,” he added.
The high-profile theft of thousands of objects from the British Museum has drawn renewed attention to the Parthenon sculptures, with some questioning their safety in the institution.
In September Osborne revealed that the number of artifacts that have disappeared from the British Museum is estimated at 2,000.
Greece renews calls for the permanent return of the Parthenon Marbles
The U.K.’s former chancellor described the missing pieces as “small items of jewelry, gems, bits of gold that were not on public display.”
He told BBC Radio it was still not clear exactly how many items had gone astray from the museum that houses the Parthenon Marbles stolen from Greece by Lord Elgin in the 19th century.
Greece has renewed calls for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the UK following the theft of artifacts. Athens jects the idea of their temporary return and demands that the artifacts be returned permanently.
The security questions raised by the missing objects “reinforces the permanent and just demand of our country for the definitive return,” Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said.
“The loss, theft, deterioration of objects from a museum’s collections is an extremely serious and particularly sad event,” Mendoni said.
“When this happens from within, beyond any moral and criminal responsibility, a major question arises regarding the credibility of the museum organization itself,” she added.