Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. You may want to read along using the transcript here or turn on “CC” closed-captions.
Summary: Last year, the government of Greece placed renewed pressure on Britain to return the Parthenon marbles, also known as the Elgin marbles, to Athens. In January, the British Museum’s director appeared to rule out returning the sculptures. After the Parthenon in Athens fell into ruins in the early 1800s, the British ambassador, Lord Elgin, with permission from the Ottoman Empire, preserved about half the sculptures, which are now at the British Museum. For almost two centuries, Greece’s government has petitioned for the sculptures return. To this day, the British Museum maintains that Elgin did the Greeks a favor in saving the sculptures from ruin. However, Greek archeologists say that the sculptures belong in Athens, where they originated and can be preserved just as well. The debate over the Parthenon sculptures remains at the forefront of the global debate on cultural heritage and whether or not ancient artifacts should be repatriated to their place of origin.
1. Essential question: How should museums treat art that they acquired in controversial ways?
2. How might another country’s acquisition of an artwork influence the public’s view of it?
3. What do you think the terms cultural heritage and cultural repatriation mean? Now look up their definitions. Do you think the marbles should be repatriated to Greece? Why or why not?
4. Dimitrios Pandermalis, Greek archeology professor, said that sharing the sculptures with Britain would not be what the ancient Greeks would have wanted. What do you think should happen to the marbles?
5. Media literacy: Britain and Greece diverge in the way they discuss the sculptures and how they refer to the marbles’ themselves. Why might it depend on the individual as to whether they refer to the marbles as the Elgin Marbles or the Parthenon Marbles? If you’re a journalist, how would you refer to the marbles? (note: the British Museum refers to the marbles as the “Parthenon Sculptures.”)
1. Read the National Geographic article, “How the Parthenon Lost its Marbles.” What steps transpired that led to Elgin’s acquisition of the marbles? How do the many different types of media featured in the story add to your understanding of the marbles’ significance?
2. Hold a formal Parthenon Marbles debate in your class with teams taking on the varying viewpoints of the British Museum and the Greek government. Research the history of the debate, use primary and secondary sources and keep an organized schedule, including opening and closing arguments.
Bridgette Adu-Wadier contributed today’s Daily News Story and Extra’s Vic Pasquantonio edited. Bridgette interns with NewsHour Extra and is a sophomore at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia.
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