21 Jun 2009

Greece hopes museum will prompt Elgin Marbles' return

10:01 am on 21 June 2009

A new museum has opened in Athens, with a special gallery in it for the Elgin Marbles.

The marbles are Greek sculptures that were part of the Parthenon, but have been held in London's British Museum for nearly 200 years.

Greece hopes the lavish opening ceremony for the Acropolis Museum, attended by foreign heads of state and government, will reinforce its claim for the return of almost half the stunning 160-metre frieze of a religious procession.

The 2,500-year-old sculptures were prised off the Acropolis walls in the early 1800s for Britain's diplomat Lord Elgin. He subsequently sold them to the British Museum where they remain.

Authorities in Greece are urging the museum in London to give them back what they say is rightfully theirs.

But despite the call, British museum spokesperson Hannah Boulton says the sculptures do not belong to Greece.

"They are now museum objects," she says. "They are objects of world art and as such ... there is no problem with them being divided between two different museums and telling two different but complementary stories."