After the opening of the magnificent new Acropolis Museum in Athens on 20 June the Guardian newspaper in England conducted an online poll of public opinion about the return of the Parthenon Sculptures from the British Museum to Greece. The poll closed last Friday and it was one of the most overwhelming votes of any Guardian poll.
Is it time to return the Parthenon Marbles?
Yes: 94.2% No: 5.8%
Over the past ten years there have been a number of public opinion polls in Britain that have all shown a strong majority supporting the return of the Marbles. However the huge Guardian result suggests the opening of the new Acropolis Museum has converted many more people who previously may have been opposed to the Marbles going back to Greece.
Amazingly, the British Museum still says they will not return the sculptures. It is unlikely there has ever been a similar case where a publicly owned organisation has tried to stick to a policy that is so far out of step with overwhelming public opinion.
The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor did not accept their invitations to the opening of the new Acropolis Museum.
Instead the British Museum was represented by the vice chairman of the Trustees Bonnie Greer who after being shown around the new Acropolis Museum said that they were still opposed to returning the Parthenon Marbles.
The new Acropolis Museum is a vastly superior place to exhibit the sculptures than the British Museum. The Parthenon Gallery on the top level is exactly the same size as the Parthenon itself and has been designed so that all of the surviving sculptures from the Parthenon can be exhibited in exactly their original positions alongside other sculptured pieces. The Duveen Gallery in the British Museum is too small even for the half of the sculptures that were taken by Lord Elgin two hundred years ago to be properly exhibited and almost all the Parthenon sculptures there are exhibited in the wrong position.
Also more people already visit the Acropolis in Athens each year than go in to the Duveen Gallery to see the Marbles in the British Museum. Now the new Acropolis Museum is open the number of visitors expected to see the ancient masterpieces of the Parthenon will further outnumber those going into the Duveen Gallery.
Not only is public opinion in Britain strongly in favour of epistrophi but so too is most of the world. We now have volunteer organisations in 16 countries campaigning in support of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures and several more countries are likely to join us before the end of the year. This world wide support includes many people from the Greek diaspora but also includes many people not from a Greek background that demand justice for the marmara.
Here in Australia the Australians for the Return of the Parthenon Sculptures has a strong mixture of Greek and non Greek members. Our joint Patrons are former Prime Ministers Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser, who were once great political opponents but united as one on this cause.
Practically every State Premier in Australia since Neville Wran in New South Wales has signed up as Honorary Members with the Australians for the Return of the Parthenon Sculptures. Only last week the Victorian Premier John Brumby demanded Britain immediately return the sculptures and said he would be writing to the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The British no longer have any reasonable grounds for delaying the return of the Parthenon Sculptures and have no legitimate basis for keeping them any longer in London.
Those of us involved in the campaign are motivated by putting right one of history’s great wrongs. You can be sure we will not stop until justice is done and the wonderful sculptures from a pinnacle of human achievement of the fifth century BC Greece are returned to where they belong – their home in Athens.
David Hill is the Chairman of the Australians for the Return of the Parthenon Sculptures.
In Athens on June 19 2009 he was re-elected as President of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, which has member organizations from 16 countries.His wife’s family is from Kos and his eight year old son already speaks Greek.
For further information see www.parthenoninternational.org