International initiatives to return the Parthenon Marbles

More coverage of the International Association for the Parthenon Sculptures's meeting in Athens.

Transcript

This is a transcript from Correspondents Report. The program is broadcast around Australia on Sundays at 08:00 on ABC Radio National.

Greek marbles could now have Athenian home

Correspondents Report – Sunday, 21 June , 2009

Reporter: Helena Smith

ELIZABETH JACKSON: After years of delays, the New Acropolis Museum opens in Athens this weekend, with prime ministers and heads of state flying in from around the world to attend the inauguration of the building.

Activists, including David Hill, the former managing director of the ABC who heads the Sydney-based Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, hope the new museum will reinvigorate the campaign to bring back the Elgin marbles – the artworks that have been displayed in the British Museum since Lord Elgin removed them from the Acropolis over 200 years ago.

Helena Smith reports from Athens.

HELENA SMITH: More than 180 years after the declaration of Greek independence and three decades after plans were first put forward, the New Museum of the Acropolis will finally open its doors.

For Greeks at large the $AU220-million museum is a dream come true, and already thousands have rushed to snap up tickets to a building many thought would never get off the ground.

But while the striking glass and cement behemoth is situated at the foot of the Acropolis, is architecturally stupendous and will contain the world’s finest collection of antique Greek sculpture, Greeks say without the classical carvings that adorned the Parthenon – until Lord Elgin removed them – it will remain woefully incomplete.To this end, the museum’s top floor facing the Acropolis has been has been purpose-built to display the masterpieces.

For a long time the British Museum argued that Athens had nowhere decent enough to exhibit its Golden Age wonders. But with that argument now crushed by the new museum, the fight to win back the marbles is about to be revived as never before.

And the Greeks are not short of supporters world-wide. In the past five years an international Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures has almost doubled in size, with members in 17 countries joining the Sydney based body.

Speaking exclusively to the ABC, the organisation’s president David Hill said he was sure the new museum would play a central role in reviving Greece’s push to retrieve the sculptures from the British Museum.

Singling out Australia for the support it has given Greece on the issue, the Greek Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said he had been heartened that political opponents like Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Frazer had put their differences aside to sign up to the body.

“It is,” he told the ABC, “indicative of the strength of feeling the marbles have aroused. So many people around the world, and even in Britain, now believe that they should now be back in Greece.”If the Greeks had wanted to make a point that something is missing from their museum, they could not have done it better.

With more than 60 per cent of the ancient sculptor Phidias’ monumental frieze on display in London, thanks to Lord Elgin, Athens has had to make do with giant plaster-cast copies, acquired from the British Museum in the 19th century, to narrate the full tale that the carvings depicted of the great Panathenaic Procession.

The whiter-than-white plaster casts stand out like eyesores and have caused controversy before the museum has even opened.

This is Helena Smith in Athens reporting for Correspondents Report.

Read the original article on the ABC website.

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