Ray of light for Marbles?

After years of refusing to consider returning the Parthenon Marbles to Athens, the British Museum may be considering a radical plan to exchange them for a series of rotating exhibitions of ancient Greek artifacts that could help increase its revenues, Britain’s Independent newspaper reported yesterday. The news came on the eve of Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos’s visit to London. Today he is to meet with his British counterpart, Tessa Jowell, and the British Museum’s new director, Neil MacGregor. The sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, will be at the top of Venizelos’s agenda. He will also be presenting plans of the new Acropolis Museum, which is to be ready by the 2004 Olympics and has been designed to house the marbles now in London. MacGregor is understood to be contemplating a deal over the sculptures in an effort to raise funds to help reduce the museum’s 6-million-pound deficit, the Independent said. Entry to the museum and its permanent collections has always been free. But by «swapping» the sculptures for a series of temporary displays of classical treasures, as Greece has offered, the museum would be able to gain a lucrative new source of income. As its source, the paper quoted Anthony Snodgrass, the retired Laurence professor of Classical archaeology at Cambridge University, who is the chairman of the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Sculptures. He told the Independent that he had discussed this privately with MacGregor. «I suggested to him the idea that the Greeks’ offer of touring exhibitions could be used to raise money through entry fees. He agreed that was a theoretical possibility. With the museum’s present financial situation, they’ve got to look at everything,» Snodgrass said. MacGregor was unavailable for comment on Saturday, the paper said.

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