Student Research Projects

The Parthenon Marbles: A Test Case for Illicit Trafficking Of Cultural Property in Museums

Student Stephanie Deach, '17
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department History
Course HIST 460: Senior Thesis

Abstract

One of the best known cases of stolen cultural property in museums is the case of the Parthenon Marbles (Elgin Marbles). With an ongoing debate that has lasted since 1881, the Parthenon Marbles have become a symbol for stolen cultural property in the museum world. This status as a major symbol for stolen cultural property can be seen through the case of the Parthenon Marbles use by the International Council of Museum\'s (ICOM) at their 2008 conference to amend the code of ethics to include the end of illicit trafficking in museums. This study examines why after 127 years the case of the Parthenon Marbles was used as a test case for the 2008 ICOM\'s conference on illicit trafficking in museums. The case of the Parthenon Marbles was used as a test case at the ICOM 2008 conference because the historical understanding of the Parthenon Marbles had changed. This historical understanding of the Parthenon Marbles changed due to ICOM defining illicit trafficking of cultural property in museums. These definitions led to further worldwide debates over the rightful owner of the Parthenon Marbles, and the protection of the Marbles. Thus the continued debate over the Parthenon Marbles made the case fresh in the minds of ICOM at the 2008 conference on illicit trafficking.