Letter to the Prime Minister

David Hill, chair of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, has recently written to Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, to appraise him on the organisation's views on the issue.
 
Copies of this letter were also sent to members of his Cabinet, Members of the Culture Media & Sport Select Committee & to other relevant politicians. 
 
12 November 2007
 
Rt Hon Gordon Brown
Prime Minister
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
UNITED KINGDOM

Dear Prime Minister
 
I am writing to appraise you of the widespread and growing support around the world for the Parthenon sculptures currently held in the British Museum to be returned to Greece.
There are now committees in 14 countries that have been formed solely for the purpose of promoting the return of the sculptures that were taken by Lord Elgin from Athens in the early 1800’s. In 2005 the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures was formed and now has members from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Sweden, Spain and the United States of America.
 
In recent years a number of world leaders have publicly stated their support for the return of the sculptures, including the then President of the United States of America, the President of Russia and the Premier of China. The Prime Ministers, leaders and parliaments of a number of Commonwealth countries have also registered their support, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada, as have a number of European countries.
We note that the attitude of the British public is now similar to world opinion on this issue. Over the past ten years a variety of public opinion polls and surveys in Britain have indicated a strong and growing majority of people also support the return of the sculptures.
 
We believe the completion of the magnificent new Acropolis Museum in Athens now provides an excellent opportunity for the Parthenon sculptures to be returned. The museum has been designed to allow all of the surviving sculptures that are currently split between London and Athens to be reunited and presented in their original positions and configuration. This is not possible in the Duveen Gallery of the British Museum where the restricted space does not allow the collection to be properly exhibited – and where fewer people actually see the exhibits than now visit the Acropolis in Athens each year.
 
The current British Museum argument that different pieces of the Parthenon sculptures should be seen in a variety of different museums means that the head of a sculptured piece might be seen in one place, while the arms, or legs, or body of the same piece might be seen in another. This strange policy is totally at odds with the advice given to a House of Commons inquiry in June 2000 when the British Museum argued that ideally the Parthenon collection should be rejoined.
 
By not agreeing to return the sculptures the British Museum is increasingly out of step with modern museum practice around the world. No one would argue that all the objects in museums should be repatriated to their country of origin but there is now almost universal acceptance of the principle that items of special significance should be returned. In 1997 a poll of members of the British Museums Association revealed that 97% of their members supported the repatriation of cultural property in certain circumstances.
 
 The British Government should be commended for having recently initiated the return of indigenous human remains to their original communities. We now look to the British Government to take the initiative to ensure the wonderful Parthenon sculptures are returned to Athens where they can be best exhibited for the benefit of all humanity. Such action by the British Government on this issue would send a strong message of moral leadership to the world.
 
The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures would be prepared to provide any assistance in facilitating a positive solution in this matter and I would be happy to meet and discuss this issue with you further.

Yours sincerely
 
David Hill
Chairman

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