After more than 200 years in the British Museum, the Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, may be returning to Greece, several British newspapers have reported these days. Senior Greek officials have held “preliminary” talks with the British Museum. Would the Parthenon Marbles date from the 5th century B.C. return to Athens, the dispute that has been going on for forty years could be settled.
First, the Greek newspaper Ta Nea reported on the talks between George Osborne, Chair of the British Museum and former Finance Minister, and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Both had recently performed at the London School of Economics. In his speech, Kyriakoss said that the permanent return of the marble statues was “possible” for the first time.
As recently as November, the attitude was “keep and explain”
If the marble statues are actually returned, it will be seen as a clear about-face from the British Museum, which has come under increasing pressure in recent years. As late as November 2022, Osborne had advocated the position of “keep and explain” in a speech, a mantra that was repeated over and over again – also by Hartwig Fischer, the director of the British Museum.
To quell concerns the move could trigger an avalanche of further claims, a British Museum spokesman said the museum was “acting within the law and will not dismantle the magnificent collection.” Rather, it is about “telling the unique story of our common humanity” while “seeking positive and long-term partnerships with countries and communities around the world.”
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