Museum mistrusts Greeks seeking loans

In addition to having no intention of returning the Elgin Collection of sculptures from the Parthenon, the British Museum will not lend the 5th-century-BC pieces to Greece for fear it might not get them back, its director implied yesterday. In an article published in yesterday’s Times, Robert Anderson said the London museum’s trustees had no power to make loans «where there can be no guarantee of an object being returned.» While noting that – despite several loose suggestions by successive Greek officials – he had received no formal request for a loan in view of the Athens Olympics, Anderson said the museum «has neither the power to assent to such a loan nor does it wish to (agree) to such a proposal that is transparently against the interests of (its visitors).» Observing that many of the sculptures that survived on the Acropolis are currently «lumbered in (Athens) storerooms,» the director added that, «if symbolic gestures for 2004 are called for, there could be none better than Greece making sure it properly displays what it already has.» The sculptures – which were completed in 432 BC – were removed on behalf of Thomas Bruce, Earl of Elgin, along with other Greek antiquities between 1801 and 1811 while Greece was under Ottoman rule. In 1816, the House of Commons bought the collection for 35,000 pounds and presented it to the British Museum. Undeterred by rebuffs from London over the past two decades, Athens insists it wants the sculptures back «even as a long-term loan,» as Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos put it last year.

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