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Today: Elgin Marbles loaned for first time

December 5th, 2014

Episode 46 of 1342 episodes

The director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, told Today's Justin Webb about the decision to loan one of the Elgin Marbles for the first time. A headless depiction of the river god Ilissos has been sent to Russia to go on display in St Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum until mid-January. Mr MacGregor explained that Mikhail Piotrovsky, the museum director, "asked if we might make one big loan to mark the fact that we're both the great enlightenment museums." "They wanted a symbol of the great shared European heritage, and the greatest of that is of course one of the parts of the sculptures." Ownership of the artefacts, once part of the 2,500-year-old Parthenon temple, is disputed by Greece. Asked if the sculpture would be lent to Greece, Mr MacGregor stated: "The trustees have always been perfectly clear they're willing to lend anything in the collection, provided it's fit to travel ...to a place where it will be safe and will be returned."

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