Hot on the heels of the recent interview that British Museum Director Neil MacGregor gave to Bloomberg News, in which he hinted that his museum might be willing periodically to “lend” the Elgin Marbles back to Greece — so long as the Greeks recognized that they were the property of the museum — the Times of London reports this morning that the Greeks, or at least a few of them at lower levels, have come back with a surprisingly accomodating reply.
One interesting quote:
The Greek authorities hailed his comments as unprecedented. One source told The Times: “This is the first time they’ve ever said they’d let them out of the museum. We’ve said we’re not disputing the ownership.”
And two more, these on the record:
Victoria Solomonidis, the cultural counsellor at the Greek Embassy in London, said: “The words of Neil MacGregor are most welcome news. The Greek side is interested in the reunification of the Parthenon and the issue of ownership does not come into it.”
Eleni Corka, an official in the Greek Culture Ministry, told the BBC: “I believe that if we discuss the issue we will find ground which will be suitable and solutions which will be profitable for both sides.”
Promising signals from lower ranking officials in Greek embassies and ministries are still not the same thing as an ok from Greek Prime Minster Costas Karamanlis on what remains the world’s best known tug of war over cultural patrimony. At the very least, let’s see if Greek Culture Minister George Voulgarakis weighs in. But if MacGregor was deliberately putting out a feeler in that Bloomberg interview, it looks like it’s been felt.