The Parthenon sculptures: stewardship

The British Museum holds in trust for the nation and the world a collection of art and antiquities. The Parthenon sculptures have been an integral part of this collection for the best part of 200 years. They are displayed in purpose-built galleries seen every year by millions of visitors, free of charge.

The Museum is committed to the permanent display and interpretation of its collection, communicating to a world audience and providing an international context where cultures can be compared and contrasted across time and place. The sculptures from the Parthenon have come to act as a focus for Western European culture and civilisation, and have found a home in a museum that grew out of the eighteenth-century 'Enlightenment', with its emphasis on developing a shared common culture that goes beyond national boundaries.

The Museum is always developing new ways of promoting the understanding of the sculptures by the widest possible audience. It does this through educational and scholarly programmes, through publication and through its display of the sculptures, which is constantly reviewed. The Museum maintains close contact with its colleagues in Athens, including those concerned with the archaeology and restoration of the Acropolis.

Against the background of this broad moral responsibility, the legal status of the Parthenon sculptures is clearly defined. The Trustees of The British Museum hold its collections in perpetuity by virtue of the power vested in them by The British Museum Act (1963).

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