As some of you may have read I went to London this weekend. One of the things I did was visit the British Museum to look at the Elgin collection and the Egyptian collection.
Whilst wandering around trying to shut out the noise of the tourists I felt that these sculptures and reliefs were trying to say something. They gave me the feeling that it wasn’t right to house them in a building far from their homelands and settings and ultimately away from the people who believed or still believe in them and their powers. Yes the main argument for keeping them in England is partly ownership and partly preservation. But really do we have the right to own them. Were they really ever the Ottomans to give away or the British Empire to acquire if not by stealth then by their usual way in the world at the time by wealth? I strongly feel that even if the Greeks and Egyptians hadn’t started on their own preservations policies and buildings that they still belong in the original countries. I think that the British wouldn’t like it if they had their Churches ripped up and removed half way round the world so what gives us the right to keep others, Education maybe? It is a valid point that this way the countries concerned (because it’s not just Britain who have done this) can increase both the availability for first hand sight and for knowledge which enables the poorer of us to study without spending much money on travelling. Is it just an age thing, that because these items are so very old the reverence they deserve in their religious aspect is ignored? Can you imagine the horror if we tried to remove a part of St Pauls to show elsewhere or Dome of the Rock? Both are old, educational and in areas with corrosion.
So what are your thoughts? Do we have the obligation to return them? Should they be housed in climate controlled great halls in foreign lands when ultimately if you think about it they were built to be in the open, visible regardless to all who wanted to worship. Should the Gods and Goddesses be free? Or as they are dead religions to many it doesn’t really matter?