After closing its doors for over 100 days due to Covid-19, the British Museum opened on Thursday. Among the first visitors to the museum were protestors demanding the return of the Parthenon marbles to Greece.
During its period of closure, the British Museum attempted to alter and rearrange their collection after receiving heavy criticism regarding the possession of artifacts stolen from colonies and linked to slave owners.
One of these changes included removing the bust of Hans Sloane, a collector whose spoils formed the first displays in the museum upon its foundation.
Sloane was a slave owner, and the presence of his bust in the museum recalled both the country’s and the museum’s brutal connections with the slave trade.
Despite implementing changes, the museum still faces intense scrutiny and criticism, especially from the governments and citizens of countries whose artifacts are in its collections.
Greece’s Parthenon Marbles belong to this category. For decades, Greece has called for the return of these stunning marble sculptures, taken from Athens by Lord Elgin, after he claimed to have made a deal with the Ottoman ruler of the country in the 19th century.
The British Museum has consistently refused to return the priceless marbles, despite pleas and protest by not only Greeks, but also by those who view Athens as the marbles’ rightful home.
A group of such protestors gathered at the museum’s entrance to bring awareness to the issue and fight for the repatriation of the sculptures to Greece.
The protestors arrived in costume to bring attention to their cause. A woman dressed up as a Caryatid, a stunning sculpture from the Erechtheion that is currently housed in the British museum. She held a sign featuring the phrase “#LOSTMYMARBLES,” in reference to the marble sculptures.
Her male counterpart appeared as Thomas Bruce, or Lord Elgin, the man who brought the marbles to England.
This is not the first protest at the museum regarding the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. In recent years, pressure has mounted on the British Museum to release the sculptures so they can be housed in Athens.
Many celebrities, including George Clooney, Matt Damon, and English actor Stephen Fry, as well as lawyers and activists, have expressed support for the cause.