MPs table Bill to return Parthenon Sculptures to Greece - Museums Association

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MPs table Bill to return Parthenon Sculptures to Greece

Bill introduced to “put right a 200 year wrong”
Patrick Steel
This week a cross-party group of MPs, led by Mark Williams, tabled the Parthenon Sculptures (Return to Greece) Bill, calling for a change in the law to allow the British Museum to transfer ownership of the marbles to Greece.

The Private Members' Bill was presented to Parliament on Monday by Mark Williams, and was supported by Roger Gale, Margaret Ferrier, Jeremy Lefroy, Mary Glindon, Hywel Williams, and Liz Saville Roberts.

Williams said: “If there had been a justification for taking these sculptures into safe keeping in the UK in the early 1800s that moment has now long passed. These magnificent artefacts were improperly dragged and sawn off the remains of the Parthenon.

"Indeed they have hardly been in safe keeping; nearly lost altogether on their journey back; and damaged by inept management while in the British Museum.

“This Bill proposes that Parliament should annul what it did 200 years ago. In 1816 Parliament effectively state-sanctioned the improper acquisition of these impressive and important sculptures from Greece. It’s time we engaged in a gracious act. To put right a 200 year wrong.”

A British Museum spokeswoman said: “The British Museum tells the story of cultural achievement throughout the world, from the dawn of human history over two million years ago until the present day. The Parthenon Sculptures are a significant part of that story.

“The museum is a unique resource for the world: the breadth and depth of its collection allows a world-wide public to re-examine cultural identities and explore the complex network of interconnected human cultures.

“The trustees lend extensively all over the world and over two million objects from the collection are available to study online. The Parthenon Sculptures are a vital element in this interconnected world collection. They are a part of the world’s shared heritage and transcend political boundaries.

“The Acropolis Museum allows the Parthenon sculptures that are in Athens (approximately half of what survive from antiquity) to be appreciated against the backdrop of ancient Greek and Athenian history.

“The Parthenon sculptures in London are an important representation of ancient Athenian civilisation in the context of world history.

“Each year millions of visitors, free of charge, admire the artistry of the sculptures and gain insight into how ancient Greece influenced – and was influenced by – the other civilisations that it encountered.”

The Bill will be read a second time on 20 January 2017.

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