[MGSA-L] Greece hopes exhibit at Museum of History in Ottawa will help free Elgin Marbles from Britain

June Samaras june.samaras at gmail.com
Wed Nov 5 14:10:09 PST 2014

Greece hopes exhibit at Museum of History will help free Elgin Marbles from

Greece hopes exhibit at Museum of History will help free Elgin Marbles from



Published on: November 3, 2014Last Updated: November 3, 2014 1:30 PM EST

ATHENS • Greece hopes a blockbuster exhibit coming to the Canadian Museum
of History next year will boost its argument for repatriating the Elgin
Marbles from the British Museum, foreign minister Evangelos Venizelos said

In an act the Greeks have long characterized as looting, British diplomat
Lord Elgin removed about half of the surviving classical Greek sculptures
from the Parthenon in Athens between 1801 and 1812 and shipped them to

The British government purchased the artifacts in 1816 and passed them to
the British Museum in London, where they remain on display to this day.

In a meeting with Canadian journalists and officials from the Canadian
Museum of History, Venizelos was asked if Greece’s willingness to allow
more than 500 rare artifacts to travel to Canada and the United States was
partly a tactic to ramp up pressure on the British to return the
long-sought sculptures.

“I’m ready to agree with you,” Venizelos replied, adding that the exhibit
“may be a good way to solve the historical and moral problem” created by
the removal of the marbles.

The exhibition, entitled The Greeks – Agamemnon to Alexander the Great, was
organized by the Canadian Museum of History and the Hellenic Ministry of
Culture and Sport.

It is touted as the most comprehensive exhibition about Ancient Greece to
tour North America in a generation and includes many artifacts that have
never before left Greece.

*It opens Dec. 5 at Montreal’s Pointe-a-Calliere museum and will appear at
the Museum of History in Gatineau from June 5 to Oct. 12, 2015. It will
later move to the Field Museum in Chicago and the National Geographic
Museum in Washington, D.C.*

Greek foreign minister Evangelos Venizelos is hopeful the exhibit in North
America will put moral pressure on Britain.

Greece has been seeking the return of the Elgin Marbles for decades. It
even built the lavish new Acropolis Museum, which opened in 2009, to
address criticisms that it had no suitable place to house them.

The remaining marble statues have now been removed from the Parthenon and
are on display in the Acropolis Museum. In place of the missing statues,
the museum displays rough plaster copies.

Venizelos told the Canadian delegation – in Greece on a government-financed
press tour of sites and artifacts represented in the Agamemnon to Alexander
the Great exhibition – that Greece is prepared to offer the British Museum
a “perpetual loan” of other ancient artifacts in exchange for the missing

“This is a win-win,” he said. “We have a chance to organize, in the new
Acropolis Museum, a complete exhibit of the marbles and organize a new
chain of exhibits for everyone.”

The Agamemnon to Alexander the Great exhibit is “an example” of what Greece
would be willing to do if the marbles are returned, Venizelos said.

Last month, the Greek government asked UNESCO to mediate the dispute, but
has not yet received a formal response from Britain. Britain is legally
obliged to respect the mediation process, Venizelos said.

Greece also hopes the new exhibition will help reset the image of Greece
abroad, tarnished by the country’s near-collapse following the 2008 global
financial crisis.

Allowing the ancient artifacts to travel to Canada and the United States,
Venizelos said, was a “good opportunity to present not only the face of our
past but also the face of modern Greece.”

Greek archeologists have many reservations about allowing the artifacts to
leave the country, the minister admitted, adding: “This is a type of
archeological patriotism about protection.”

The exhibition provides an opportunity to overcome these “hesitations and
reservations and become more flexible and practical,” he said.

Venizelos said he was satisfied that Canadian institutions have the
infrastructure to properly protect the often-fragile artifacts, some of
which date back more than 7,000 years.

That prompted Terry Clark, the exhibition’s curator at the museum of
history, to assure that the museum will use the best technology to protect
the precious objects. “They’ll be watched day and night,” he promised.

dbutler at ottawacitizen.com


June Samaras
2020 Old Station Rd
Canada L5M 2V1
Tel : 905-542-1877
E-mail : june.samaras at gmail.com
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