Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Walking through the Sculptures

September 13th, 2009 · 4 Comments

My trip to the British Museum was determined by one goal, to see the Parthenon Gallery and then move onto the rest of the Ancient World exhibitions. This goal formed during my junior year of high school when I was taking an AP Art History course. When we began the section on Greek Art and Architecture a main point of our discussion sessions focused on the British Museum’s collections, particularly the Parthenon Collection. I remember vividly the heated debates we had concerning the right of the British Museum to keep the statues taken from the Parthenon. My teacher’s advice on the subject though was to withhold on our final judgment until we could actually view the Parthenon Gallery at the British Museum. So this had me more than just a bit excited to see this exhibition and what else the museum had to offer.
As I entered the Parthenon Gallery, I was struck by the beauty of the friezes, metopes and pediments. The way they are arranged is to show them as they would have appeared on the Parthenon. The metopes and friezes are organized into their appropriate sections and the pieces placed in their original order. It is a unique opportunity to see temple friezes, metopes and pediments from the ground as they were meant to be seen. Yet there is equal beauty in being able to walk along these elements of an ancient temple and being able to view their details at eye level. This exhibition is simple in how it presents the sculptures, but it is the most effective way for the viewers to appreciate the beauty of the Parthenon sculptures. I found myself very appreciative of the gallery and was able to look past the controversy concerning the rights of the British Museum to the ownership of the sculptures.
The question that the museum poses in the pamphlet it printed in response to the controversy is one of not ownership but one concerning the protection and display of the sculptures. It states that the Parthenon was being destroyed at the time when the sculptures were taken by Lord Elgin. It was for preservation of the sculptures that they remained with the British Museum. Moreover, they are part of a collection on the Ancient World, which Greece and the Parthenon were very much part of. So it seems to me, that these sculptures are preserved, protected and appropriately displayed within the British Museum. It is only this preservation, protection, and respectful presentation that persuades people to support the British Museum’s right to keep the statues. Also, there are sculptures from the Parthenon in Greece, at the new Acropolis Museum. If there were no sculptures left to preserve and present in Greece, then my opinion would be different, but since there is preservation and appropriate presentation of them here in London it seems better for them to remain.

Tags: Kimberly