The so-called Elgin Marbles could soon be returned to Greece as the British Museum is reportedly nearing a major deal.
According to The Daily Telegraph, George Osborne, head of the British Museum and former Tory chancellor, appears to have drawn up a deal with Athens as part of a “culture exchange”.
This comes after the Government’s Tory colleague Lord Vaizey from Didcot rejected a call for a law change to make it easier for UK museums to deal with extradition requests.
Current legislation prevents the legal distribution of treasures by the museum, but its president, Osborne, is reportedly trying to repatriate the artifacts as part of a long-term “cultural exchange”.
But the loan deal won’t end the long-standing dispute over 17 statues and fragments of a frieze adorning the 2,500-year-old Parthenon temple on the Acropolis, according to The Telegraph.
The 2,500-year-old marbles were taken by Lord Elgin while he was Britain’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century and have been the subject of debate over where they should be displayed.
The Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has repeatedly asked for the marbles to be returned to Greece, even offering to lend some of his country’s other treasures to the British Museum in return.
A spokesperson for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told the PA news agency: “The legal ownership of the Parthenon Statues in the British Museum rests with the British Museum Trustees, which is operationally independent from the Government. Decisions regarding the care and management of its collections are up to the trustees. matter.”
The museum said last month that it has “publicly called for a new Parthenon Partnership with Greece” and will “talk to everyone, including the Greek government, about how this will progress.”
We act within the law and we will not destroy our great collection as it tells a unique story of our shared humanity.
But we are looking for new, positive, long-term partnerships with countries and communities around the world, and that includes, of course, Greece.”