For the first time in ages, literally, a bit of the now infamous Elgin Marbles is on the move. Back to whence it came? No – it’s been shipped to Mother Russia as part of a temporary exhibition at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. The Greeks will not be amused – and neither is the movie star lobby that is starting to bring celebrity voice to the century-old debate about the plundering of nations’ treasures. Note Monuments Men; which based on their box-office take, not many have! Too bad they couldn’t time their release better – it would’ve been a great publicity stunt.
The British museum and the British government is having none of it, however, and Greece is crying foul! Perhaps they should make a remake of Russell Brand’s movie, “Get him to the Greek!” The “scandal” of the Acropolis Museum is still a hot topic. Plaster-case replicas of the Parthenon marbles are displayed in place of the originals, which were spirited away by Lord Elgin in the 19th century and sit a thousand miles away in the British Museum. Even Lord Byron took issue and wrote a poem of protest.
It seems a shame that after so many years some kind of reconciliation can’t be achieved, but therein lies the problem with museums. The oldest public museums opened in Rome during the Renaissance, starting with the Capitoline, the oldest of them all, in 1471. A few years back I explored the Acropolis Museum, which sits in the shadow of the Parthenon. This beautiful glass museum tells the story of all museums – specifically the way collections of artifacts mysteriously end up miles from where they started, in places like London and Paris. More or less everything came from somewhere else and most of the time there was a shady deal. You could say it’s a reflection of history in general-intrigue, treason, and plot! It’s one of the many reasons I love to travel: You learn something new every time.
So will the Elgin Marbles ever make their way back to Greece? Only time and a ton of Russian Rubles will tell.