From next week, Greek City Times is proud to be launching a dedicated weekly column concerning one of the world’s most hotly debated cultural-restitution cases: the Parthenon Sculptures.
For Greek City Times – and for many millions of Greeks, philhellenes, scientists, artists, students and regular everyday citizens around the world – the repatriation and reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures held for these past 200 years at the British Museum in London is of more than symbolic importance. It is a matter of healing a deep national wound and repairing relations with one of Greece’s longest and dearest allies.
For years, we have been closely following the efforts of various Greek Governments and over 36 international groups and organisations in their efforts to bring these sculptures back home and to reunite them with their other half, on display since 2009 in the stunning new Acropolis Museum. These efforts have all been passionate and well-intentioned, and are supported by the weight of public opinion (even in Britain), but there were major gaps in their planning, and none of them had the combination of resources and strategic focus needed to succeed.
Recently, however, our attention was drawn to the quietly impressive efforts and meticulous planning of a new group, operating under the working title of “The Parthenon Project”, which is now completing the most thorough period of research and strategic planning (2+ years) ever devoted to the case of the Parthenon Sculptures – thanks to strong financial support from Lefas Humanitas, a family foundation based in Luxembourg.
We contacted the person in Athens, Don Morgan Nielsen (classicist, Olympian and strategic advisor), who was responsible for researching and developing the foundation’s “Parthenon strategy” and, after long conversations, realised that their bold and carefully balanced approach, if adopted by the Greek Government, has the ability to break this centuries-old impasse.
The quality, breadth and practical focus of their research was what first helped us understand why this effort could succeed. Mr. Nielsen’s team studied forty years of repatriation strategies, lawsuits, bilateral agreements, successes and failures involving four “source” countries: Egypt, Turkey, Italy and Greece – as well as the efforts of the various national and international groups and organisations who have been tirelessly lobbying for the return of the Sculptures.
Their research encompassed court cases, laws and treaties on five continents, UNESCO declarations, decades of speeches in the UK Parliament and five years of board meetings at the British Museum. They also entered into confidential private dialogue with state prosecutors, museum directors, current and past trustees, historians, legal experts, jurists and many of the key stakeholders in this issue. The strategy which emerges from all this research, analysis and dialogue has given us renewed hope that this dispute can be creatively resolved and that the win-win solution outlined by this team of top-flight international firms and individuals is the key.
For all of these reasons, Greek City Times has invited Mr. Nielsen, on behalf of the Parthenon Project, to enter into a conversation with our readers – in the form of a weekly column, “The Parthenon Report”, which will explore many of the issues related to the repatriation of the Parthenon Sculptures.
We hope that you will pay close attention to this new weekly column and share it as widely as you can, especially among friends, colleagues and acquaintances who may, up to now, have no connection with Greece but who might be interested in one of the great controversies of the past two hundred years.
For us at Greek City Times, the cause of the Parthenon Sculptures is the canary in the coal mine – a test of whether justice can prevail in this undeniably new era.