The Parthenon sculptures in London were brought from Athens by Lord Elgin in1805. This was done in the full knowledge and permission of the authorities of Ottoman. The sculptures since their arrival in London have influenced Europeans positively with regards to artistic trends and the Greek culture. The question of ownership arises on whether these artistic forms should be taken back to Greece. The trustees of the British Museum believe that they should remain in Europe as they tell the story of the world heritage. The Greek position on the other hand is that it is only fair that the Parthenon marbles return to Greece for the protection of the world cultural heritage. This paper looks at the arguments brought forward by each side and a personal conclusion on the best way forward.
One of the major purposes of the British museum is to re-examine different cultural identities and explore the interconnectedness of human cultures. The Parthenon sculptures in Britain serve as a world heritage that cannot be confined by any political boundary. They represent the Athenian civilization in the wider world context. The trustees of the museum believe that because there are other Parthenon sculptures in Acropolis museum in Athens, those in London and other countries including Vatican and Louvre should be kept where they are.(The British Museum, Sculptures). This allows for different complementary perspectives in the Athenian civilization that reveal the interconnection between Ancient Greece and the rest of the world cultures.
The trustees bring out the issue of the legalities involved in order to keep the sculptures. They reaffirm that they were not stolen, but transported with the full legal knowledge and permission of the authorities of the Ottoman Empire. There is proof of the funds allocated to the British Museum in 1816 for the acquisition of the collection (The British Museum, British Position).
With regard to the reuniting of the Parthenon, the museum trustees believe that such a move is impossible. The Parthenon may have been reconstructed, but still remains in ruin. Returning all sculptures from various parts of the world back to Greece has no guarantee that they would reach safely (The British Museum, Misconceptions). It is only wise that they be conserved in museums where they currently are exhibited.
Setting up an outpost in Athens is not a solution if their purpose is to educate the European public on the Greek civilization. The emphasis here lies in the fact that at the British Museum, the Parthenon sculptures are viewed within the world collection context. They are supposed to enlighten the public on the significance of world cultural connectedness since historical times. It is from this view point that Parthenon sculptures both in Britain and Athens maximize appreciation of world cultural history.
The Greek authorities affirm that the Parthenon marbles are universal elements that are not confined in national territories. It is against this backdrop that they believe in the distinctiveness of the Parthenon sculptures (The Hellenistic Republic Ministry of Culture, Seizure).They are quick to note that restitution of the same will not be a leeway towards claim for other Greek antiquities around the world.
The major argument behind claiming the Parthenon sculptures back is honor towards history. The setting up of the new Acropolis Museum is a way of showing Greek’s commitment towards rebuilding back the Parthenon (The Hellenistic Republic Ministry of Culture, Greek Position). This cannot be complete unless all pieces, including those at the British Museum are returned.
The Parthenon sculptures and marbles at the British Museum should be retained. Foremost, they were obtained legally from Athenian authorities. Secondly, collection of all pieces around the world into the original Parthenon cannot occur without damages. Even so, the Parthenon building is already a ruin. Lastly, it is only in different context that people can fully appreciate the importance of these sculptures.