An illicit trade exposed

An exhibition at the new wing of the Benaki Museum, «History Lost,» which is due to open today and run to October 22, could not be more contemporary. The recent returns of Greek antiquities from the Getty Museum and other similar moves possibly confirm the onset of an international debate concerning the ethical principals governing major museums in the West and the measures they must adopt to further the cause of protecting our global cultural heritage. This is a multimedia traveling exhibition which focuses on the illicit trade in antiquities in Greece, Cyprus and the rest of world. With explanatory texts written by Cambridge University professor Neil Brodie, writer and stage director Andreas Apostolidis and journalist Peter Winston, as well as with the participation of over 100 archaeologists and researchers from around the globe, «History Lost» traces the evolution of the illegal trade in antiquities. What makes this exhibition especially attractive and accessible to the public is that it includes screenings of relevant documentary films and computer-generated interactive games that allow visitors to get a spherical look at the world of antiquities smuggling. Other than addressing the destruction of the archaeological museum of Baghdad and the temples of Cambodia, the sale of Greek antiquities to auction houses in the United States and other such occurrences, the exhibition also takes in Cyprus, Italy and Turkey, countries which, like Greece, have been trying to achieve the return of ancient artifacts that have either been transported or sold abroad. The exhibition comes to Athens after having been shown at the National Archaeological Museum of Cyprus, while parts of it will go on display later at museums in Corinth and Nemea. So far, over 20,000 people from around the world have visited the exhibition, which is organized by Anemon, with the support of the Culture 2000 program of the European Union. The co-organizers are the Illicit Antiquities Research Center of the University of Cambridge, the Cyprus Department of Antiquities, the 37th Ephorate of Antiquities of Corinth and the University of the Aegean.