Monday, 7 October 2013

An Introduction to the Politics of Heritage: Part Two

For a case study a little closer to home, I have been thinking about 'ownership' of Heritage and where the rights of objects really lie.  

The British Museum

About 200 years ago Lord Elgin, an ambassador for Britain, removed sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens and bought them back home.  He sold them to The British Museum and after a brief settlement it was decided that the museum did indeed have complete legal ownership of the sculptures and they are still housed there today.

Who wouldn't want to keep them?

However, Greece isn't particularly happy about this and is still urging Britain to send them back, especially as they have the lovely new(ish)  Acropolis Museum to keep them warm in.  

The Acropolis Museum has made copies of the sculptures, to complete their Parthenon reconstruction.

Greek politicians argue that Britain has a moral duty to return the sculptures to it's rightful place.  However the British Museum refuses, stating the the museum represents the history of world humanity, transcending borders with free access to visitors from around the globe.  There are also a lot of written laws to support their ownership, which is potentially why the Greeks used the 'moral' card.

The term 'World Heritage' promotes the idea that great buildings and artifacts are not limited to a nation, but belong to anyone in the world who shows an interest (or arguably, a small committee representing the interested world).    There are definitely both positive and negative aspects to this notion.  

To follow on from this, I found this interesting link that lists the Top Ten Plundered Artifacts currently on display to the public.

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