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Greece Slams British Museum for Lack of Care, Calls for Return of Parthenon Marbles

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum.

The Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum.

Once again, the British Museum, currently hosting the Parthenon Marbles, has been found to be displaying the world masterpieces in inadequate conditions.

Photos came to light last week depicting a leaking roof with water seeping into the British Museum’s seven “Greek” galleries featuring items including the Parthenon Sculptures.

Last month, a spokesperson from the museum confirmed that “there was some water ingress in one of the [Greek] galleries” but could not identify which gallery.

British media report that the “wet” conditions have delayed the reopening of the galleries, initially scheduled for July, which have remained closed since December 2020.

The museum attributes the delay to the Covid-19 pandemic. It goes on to add that “none of the sculptures have been damaged and the issue has been addressed”.

“The museum has undertaken a program of work within [the Greek] galleries and the scheduling of this work was delayed due to the impact of the pandemic on the museum’s program. Further works and surveys were undertaken in July in Galleries 12-18 [the Greek galleries]. This means the galleries are currently closed to ensure the safety of our visitors and the collection whilst these surveys are carried out,” it said in a statement.

Photos of Dripping British Museum Come to Light

Left: The Art Newspaper took this picture of the stained roof in the Parthenon sculptures gallery in January 2020. Right: Figures from the pediment of the ancient temple in the British Museum © The Art Newspaper

British monthly magazine The Art Newspaper reports that leaks had also been found in January 2020 in the same section of the museum as well as in 2018.

The museum has repeatedly faced condemnation for the poor state of the halls housing the museum’s Greek and Assyrian treasures.

Despite the unsuitable conditions and lack of care of the world heritage works and amid an ever-growing number of supporters worldwide calling for their return, the British Museum has repeatedly refused.

The 2,500-year-old monuments were illegally removed by Lord Elgin from the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Athens in the 1800s and sold to the museum, which has argued that Greece would be unable to provide the necessary care and space to host the art works.

Twelve years ago, Athens opened the Acropolis Museum, awarded repeatedly as one of the best museums in the world, aiming to bring back the orphaned sculptures to their birth place.

Greek Culture Minister: ‘Not the First Time’

Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni reiterated that the “Parthenon Sculptures must return to their homeland where they belong… and not be detached from the monument”.

“This is not the first time that photographs have been published revealing that the conditions for exhibiting the Parthenon Sculptures at the British Museum are not only inappropriate, but also dangerous,” Mendoni told The Art Newspaper.

“In September 2019, when similar photos were published, we had stressed that these images fully strengthen the legal, ongoing and non-negotiable request from Greece for the reunification of the sculptures. The Parthenon Marbles, one of the greatest monuments of Western civilization, must return to their homeland,” she added.

Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni.

Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni

It should be reminded that the United Nations General Assembly – with the support of 74 countries – has supported Greece’s request, accepting its proposal for the return of cultural property unlawfully removed as part of ongoing efforts to protect the world’s cultural heritage.

US congress has also called for the return of the Parthenon Marbles and UNESCO has called for a “mutually acceptable solution” recognizing the historical, cultural, legal and ethical dimensions of the issue.

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About the Author
Chicago-born and raised, Maria Paravantes has over two decades of journalistic experience covering tourism and travel, gastronomy, arts, music and culture, economy and finance, politics, health and social issues for international press and media. She has worked for Reuters, The Telegraph, Huffington Post, Billboard Magazine, Time Out Athens, the Athens News, Odyssey Magazine and, among others. She has also served as Special Advisor to Greece’s minister of Foreign Affairs, and to the mayor of Athens on international press and media issues. Maria is currently a reporter, content and features writer for GTP Headlines.
  1. Effie Patrianakos Reply

    I am from a small town called Gythion in the Peloponese, mainland Southern Greece. Our town hall (Thimarhio) has an outdoor courtyard. There, you will also find Ancient Greek marbles! Passers by sit on them during their smoke breaks. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. So, before we talk about what England is doing with our treasures, perhaps we should immediately correct the Gythion situation!

  2. Vickie Coats Reply

    Why is Britain keeping things that belong in every way to Greece? They must return them before they become an indelible stain on the character of the English people. Send them home please!

  3. Russell Darnley Reply

    Thanks Maria, an excellent article.
    I’ve written a piece for the Australian publication Neos Kosmos.
    This is about direct experience of the problem. I hope you enjoy it.

    I’m the secretary of the International Organising Committee – Australia – for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles.

  4. john aleyiannis Reply

    The Parthenon marbles should be returned to Greece that’s where tourists can see them all together in 1 country.The UK should do the right thing and return them.

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