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|THE SWEDISH PARTHENON COMMITTEE
Welcome to the Swedish Parthenon Committee!
Committees are currently being formed in many places around the world to support the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures to the Acropolis in Athens. Large parts of these sculptures are currently exhibited at the British Museum in the UK; they were brought to London in the early 19th century by Lord Elgin, a British diplomat and are often referred to as the Elgin Marbles.
The Swedish Parthenon Committee was founded in spring 2003. Please support its future work by becoming a member.
Founder of the Swedish Parthenon Committee
Died on 25 March 2010
Members of the Board in The Swedish Parthenon Committee
Christina von Arbin
Hans Henrik Brummer
Counsellor for cultural affairs
Ambassador and chair of the committee
Journalist and author
Project manager and secretary of the committee
Professor and director
Artist, responsible for the committee’s website
AIM OF THE COMMITTEE
The Swedish Parthenon Committee is a non-profit organisation that aims to use verbal, pictorial and written information to spread knowledge of Ancient Greece, emphasising the historical account of how the Parthenon Sculptures were transferred to the UK and the British Museum. In spreading this knowledge the committee specifically aims to promote the reunification of the sculptures in their original location, Athens.
The committee backs the Greek government’s proposal: that it should be possible to exhibit the sculptures in a purpose-built museum in the immediate vicinity of the Acropolis, under the management of the British Museum, and that the new museum could in this respect be regarded as a branch of the British Museum.
The committee backs any mutually agreed solution that the parties may reach regarding this matter.
The committee shall also encourage and participate in the ongoing debate about the role and responsibility of museums in meeting the general public’s demands to be able to learn about cultural heritage from Classical Antiquity in an easily understood and thought-provoking way.
The following countries have committees with similar aims:
Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the USA.
In addition there is an international organisation, the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, which is based in Australia.
The Parthenon Sculptures and Lord Elgin
In July 1801, Lord Elgin (the Seventh Earl of Elgin), British Ambassador in Constantinople, ordered his employees in Athens – under Ottoman rule at the time – to systematically start dismantling the sculptural embellishment at the Parthenon temple. Lord Elgin intended to use the sculptures, which are highly significant in historical, artistic and cultural terms, as decoration for his private property in the UK. For financial reasons, however, he offered to sell them to the British government. After debating the issue, the British parliament decided to buy the sculptures, and in 1816 they were handed over to the British Museum, which had opened in 1759.
The decision to move the sculptures while Athens was under Turkish rule was met with criticism, and in 1898 Greece demanded reunification of the sculptures. In 1983, Greek authorities submitted the first official request for their return. Since then, this request has garnered further international support from organisations such as UNESCO and ICOM as well as from the public.
The issue is complicated, however. The British Museum regards the Parthenon Sculptures as part of British cultural heritage. They have been on display at the museum since 1817 and have been very significant to generations of artists, poets, architects and researchers. Furthermore, the operational goal of the museum is to exhibit and highlight the civilisations of the world.
Many museums in Europe, the US and Australia base their collections on objects collected from Classical Antiquity in the Mediterranean region. It is feared that returning the Elgin Marbles to Athens would create a snowball effect with serious consequences. A debate about the Elgin Marbles – whatever its outcome – will thus affect all museums with foreign collections.
The problems surrounding the case of the Parthenon Sculptures are closely linked to an ongoing international debate on the future role of museums and cultural heritage organisations, most of which were established more than 100 years ago. Many questions have arisen out of this debate, such as how these institutions can take a stance on modern ethics in cultural heritage issues and stay one step ahead of cultural policy developments in a changing world. The Greek claim to the Elgin Marbles is particularly interesting to the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm and to the Swedish public, because Sweden signed UNESCO’s UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects in 2002.