The British Museum is one of the largest and most famous museums in the world. Located in central London, the museum is the permanent home to over 8 million artefacts. It is considered a must-visit by international and domestic tourists alike. From Egyptian Mummies to Hokusai’s Great Wave, the British Museum is a trove of  treasures from all over the world, but what happens when a country asks for their artefacts back? That is exactly what is happening with the Elgin Marbles.
History of the Elgin Marbles
The Elgin Marbles are a collection of Ancient Greek sculptures that were taken from the Athenian Parthenon by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, in the early 19th century. Lord Elgin was the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Greece at the time. He obtained permission from the Ottoman authorities to remove the sculptures and ship them to Britain. The sculptures were purchased by the British government and eventually became part of the British Museum's permanent collection.
Ownership and Display Controversy
The ownership and display of the Elgin Marbles has been the subject of controversy for many years. Greece has long claimed that the sculptures were illegally taken from the country and should be returned. The Greek government has requested the return of the sculptures on numerous occasions, but the British Museum has refused to return them. As recently as March 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has vowed never to allow the marbles to return to Greece.
The British Museum argues that it acquired the Elgin Marbles legally and points to the fact that they have been in the museum's collection for over 200 years. The museum also claims that it is better equipped to care for and display the sculptures than any institution in Greece. Furthermore, the museum argues that returning the sculptures would set a dangerous precedent  and lead to the repatriation  of other artefacts in museums around the world. A domino effect  of returning items borrowed and stolen from the far reaches of the British Empire.
The controversy surrounding the ownership and display of the Elgin Marbles is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. Both sides have valid arguments, and the issue is further complicated by the fact that the sculptures have been in the British Museum's collection for so long. However, it is clear that the Elgin Marbles are an important part of Greece's cultural heritage, and many people believe that they should be returned. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to return the Elgin Marbles will have to be made by the British government, and it will likely have far-reaching  implications  for the repatriation of other cultural artefacts around the world.