The Elgin/Parthenon Marbles: Heritage, Ownership, Care and Controversy

The course that Professor Ann M. Nicgorski (Art History/Archaeology) and I will be developing this summer is an examination of the Parthenon, addressing its setting and significance within the ancient world, as well as its ongoing role as a source of cultural influence and debate.

When Lord Elgin removed a large portion of the Parthenon frieze, pedimental sculpture and metopes, with a contested degree of authorization from the Ottoman authority, he began a centuries long debate over the proper care and placement of that sculpture--should it be displayed in London as a central treasure of the British Museum or should it be returned to Athens. Issues of legal ownership, artistic and cultural influence, care and preservation, and national heritage rights have been argued repeatedly. With the building of the new Acropolis Museum in Athens, the debate has resumed with fresh vigor. I will be preparing course materials for the study of that ongoing debate and the final student debate over the retention or reunification of the marbles. This summer, in addition to the Cuno text, we will read The Parthenon Marbles: The Case for Reunification by Christopher Hitchens. Students who are interested in the case of the marbles themselves, or in similar issues of cultural heritage, ownership, and museum display, are invited to join this summer study.

We invite students to join our summer research community who have research interests related to classical and classicistic/colonial art and architecture, the Parthenon, the Elgin Marbles debate, museum ethics and display issues, other cultural heritage issues, and international law relating to cultural heritage issues. We may begin our work together by reading some texts that will be relevant to us all, such as James Cuno's Who Owns Antiquity? James Cuno is a Willamette University alumnus, a member of our Board of Trustees, and the President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Willamette University

Liberal Arts Research Collaborative

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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