Sir Mark Jones put forward as interim director of British Museum

Former head of V&A has suggested Parthenon marbles could be shared with Greece

A former head of the V&A Museum, who previously suggested the Parthenon marbles could be shared with Greece, has been put forward as the interim director of the British Museum.

Sir Mark Jones will replace Hartwig Fischer, who quit after it emerged thousands of objects had been stolen from the museum’s collection. A police investigation is under way regarding the reported thefts.

His appointment has led to increasing speculation there could be further developments in the long-running dispute over the ancient Greek sculptures.

In a 2002 interview with the Observer, Jones, then the director of the V&A, advocated the idea of sharing them with Greece. He said: “There must be a possibility that something could now work for all parties.

“I cannot tell another museum how to behave on this, but I do believe it is possible to develop partnerships. It can be good to display objects at different places.

“Wherever there is a strongly held belief there is an opportunity, too, if it can be recognised. It is not necessarily a case of transferred ownership or of giving the marbles back for good, but when people believe things are really important, as the Greeks and the British Museum do in this case, that is actually a good thing. Apathy is our great enemy.”

In January, the British Museum confirmed that it was involved in “constructive discussions” with Greece over the return of some of the Parthenon marbles.

Under a proposed plan, which is still under discussion, Greece would renounce its claim to the marbles but the British Museum would loan some of the sculptures to Athens, with Greek treasures coming to London.

In March Rishi Sunak vowed he would protect the Parthenon marbles from being returned to Greece.

“The UK has cared for the Elgin marbles for generations,” he said, using an alternative name derived from the British earl who removed them from the Acropolis in the early 19th century. “The collection of the British Museum is protected by law, and we have no plans to change it.”

In a statement on Saturday, George Osborne, chair of the British Museum, said Jones had received the “unanimous approval” of the board of trustees to become the interim director, subject to the approval of the prime minister.

“Mark is one of the most experienced and respected museum leaders in the world, and he will offer the leadership and grip the museum needs right now,” he said. “We are both clear that his priorities are to accelerate the cataloguing of the collection, improve security, and reinforce pride in the curatorial mission of the museum.

“This sits alongside the major renovation work we’re undertaking, and the partnerships we’re forging, to ensure that we build a stronger future for the museum we all love and admire.

“I promised we would learn lessons and then lay the foundations for a strong future. Mark’s appointment is a big step in that direction.”

The British Museum had no further comment beyond Osborne’s statement.

Contributor

Jane Clinton

The GuardianTramp

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