Monday, August 3, 2009

British Museum

Dropped by the British Museum this morning. I used to go on every trip to London -- it'd be the first thing I'd do on my first day -- haul out to the museum, pay my respects to the Rosetta Stone, and drool over the Parthenon sculptures until I was too tired to stand.

But I haven't been during my more recent trips, and since I'm actually heading to Greece to see the Parthenon itself, it seemed wise to check out the stuff stolen from it.

The British Museum has a little description on the wall impliedly recognizing (with particular British understatement) the small dispute it's having with the New Acropolis Museum in Greece. To wit: Greece wants its stuff back. The poster at the British Museum explains that the Parthenon frieze is broken up 60/40 between Athens and London (can't remember which country has more -- I took a picture of this -- and of some of the antiquities themselves -- but can't upload them from this here internet place) -- ANYWAY, it's 60/40 and the British Museum explains that having the Parthenon treasures in the two different places serves two different (and according to the British Museum, valid) purposes -- the ones in Greece are displayed as part of Greece's history, while the ones in London are displayed as part of their place in the overall history of the world, alongside stuff that went before and came after.

I admire the attempt on the part of the British. And, indeed, I used to be grateful for the theft, because I'd wanted to see these treasures near in time to when I studied them in college (as opposed to now, when I've pretty much forgotten all of my Art History), and it was much easier for me to get to London than to Athens. But, honestly, they have no legitimate legal claim to this stuff, and the honorable thing to do is pack it up in styrofoam and ship it off the New Acropolis Museum.

I mean, I took a picture of a metope which had (as do nearly all of the metopes) a Lapith (dude) battling a centaur. Both the Lapith's head and the centaur's head were missing. The plaque on the metope said that their heads are in Athens. Seriously, it's time to reunite these figures with their heads.

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