1943 Letter Reveals British Museum Trustee Favored Repatriation of Parthenon Marbles

Kenneth Clark once argued for a new museum near the Acropolis. Today, the award-winning Acropolis Museum of Athens prepares for its 10-year celebration.


An old letter written by late British art historian Kenneth Clark reveals that the former British Museum Trustee had argued in favor of the return of the Parthenon sculptures.

The two-page letter, which was made public by the Greek newspaper Ta Nea on Friday, is kept at the Tate Archive in the British capital. It was written in September 1943, when Clark was director of the National Gallery in London, and it is addressed to Thomas Bodkin, former director of the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin and founding director of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham.

In the letter, Clark expresses the view that the famed sculptures should be repatriated out of a sense of duty toward Greece. Clark, who died in 1983, says that the 2,500-year-old treasures should be housed in a new museum built, with funds from the British government, near the ancient citadel.

Britain’s Lord Elgin removed the sculptures from the Parthenon during a period when Greece was under Ottoman rule.

Greece has repeatedly requested their return since it gained independence in 1832. It stepped up its campaign in 2009 when it opened a new museum designed by Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi.

This article was originally published at ekathimerini.com.


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