5.08.2007

MacGregor's Marbles - Clarification

A few weeks ago Neil MacGregor gave an interview, covered in many newspapers, in which he was quoted as having made the claim about the Elgin Marbles that "the Greek government has never asked for a loan of the material from the British Museum.''
I was confused - as I posted here.

In this week’s Sunday Times - Behind the scenes at the British Museum - I read of MacGregor and the Elgin Marbles:
"One recent story suggested that his policy on the Parthenon Marbles has changed. It hasn’t: loans to Athens have always been on the cards. “The position is as it has always been. The trustees have always said that the sculptures are an essential part of the museum here.”"

I am again a little confused by this claim. I assume that MacGregor is saying that the Museum has always said that they would not loan the Marbles, and he is re-stating that claim.
MacGregor had always, I thought, previously said that the Parthenon Sculptures are iconic works integral to the British Museum, and that the Museum does not loan such works.
Sir John Boyd, Chairman of the Trustees, wrote to the Greek government stating that the Marbles “cannot be lent” (14 November 2002) – the Greeks kindly provided me with a copy of the letter, which I have posted again below (click on image to enlarge). The British Museum’s own web site makes it clear that the Parthenon Sculptures fall into a category of works that they will not loan.

I am sure that MacGregor did not mean to deliberately and repeatedly mislead journalists. The Sunday Times article was subtitled: “the British Museum’s latest plan, says its director, Neil MacGregor, is to let everyone write their own history”. It read as if the director is now re-writing his own history, which could not possibly be the case.

Two such serious misunderstandings in the space of one month are grounds to question MacGregor’s Marbles. Before he loses our Elgin Marbles, perhaps the Trustees should consider repatriating MacGregor back to whence he came. I'm for keeping the Marbles in the British Museum – but not Neil MacGregor.


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