It is dishonorable for the British Museum to keep the Parthenon marbles | Parthenon marbles

As a secondhand bookseller, I arrived at the home of Harold Plenderleith shortly before he died in 1997 to buy books. He had been chief conservator with the British Museum, and I made the mistake of asking him for his views of him on repatriation of the Parthenon marbles (Greece rebuts British Museum claim Parthenon marbles were ‘removed from rubble’, 23 May). “Never!” he replied, “Never! We looked after the marbles when they would have been destroyed [by pollution?] had they stayed in Athens.” His vehemence tired him so much that he had to go back to bed. I assumed that this was the line taken by all staff at the time, and daren’t ask about the notorious scrubbing incident that took place while he was a junior in the early 1930s.

Shortly after, Glasgow Museums returned a ghost dance shirt to the Sioux community and my friend, the poet Anna Crowe, wrote a poem on it including the words: “We still believe some form of words, / or ritual will come between / us and another’s anger. Not seeing / that our invisibility’s what’s required.” Those at the British Museum still struggling to retain the Parthenon marbles should take heed.
Margaret Squires
St Andrews, Fife

It should make no difference whether the Parthenon marbles were “removed from the rubble” or not. They must be given back. If our neighbours’ house is on fire while on holiday, and we rescue their valuables, we should surely give them back when they return. To keep them would be dishonorable.
David Simmonds
Woking, Surrey

Have an opinion on anything you’ve read in the Guardian today? Please email us your letter and it will be considered for publication.

Leave a Comment