Public and Private Property in the Cultural Property Realm: Reporting from Oahu

Posted on June 6, 2012


Reporting from the Law and Society 2012 Conference in fabulous Honolulu, I went to a talk yesterday by Betina Kuzmarov on the Parthenon Marbles. Before you go getting all skeptical that anyone could add anything interesting to the discussion at this point, listen up.

Betina first outlined the four basic categories of arguments that people make to support the British Museum’s retention of the Marbles as follows:

  1. The acquisition argument – was the acquisition legal or not?;
  2. The preservation argument – deals with saving the Marbles for the world;
  3. The museums argument – it would be dangerous to move them, or they are better off in a museum; and
  4. The objects argument – there is a monetary value to the Marbles and they are mere property.

Working from these categories, Betina is looking at key points in the Marbles debate, from 1816 (when a government committee was developed to facilitate the British Museum’s purchase of the marbles) to present, evaluating the role of public and private property concepts in the arguments. She is therefore using the Parthenon Marbles as a lens through which to examine concepts of and the distinction between public and private property in the cultural property realm.

I think that’s a little interesting!

When asked (by me, let’s be honest) whether Betina would like to see the Marbles returned, she said, simply, “Yes.”