The Institute of Digital Archaeology (IDA) stated Tuesday that it is planning to file an injunction against the British Museum to require the museum to allow a 3D-scanning project of the infamous Parthenon Marbles to continue.
In 447-438 BC, the Parthenon Marbles were constructed for the Greek Parthenon temple by Phidas and his assistants in a dedication to the goddess Athena on the Acropolis in Athens. Lord Elgin of Scotland stole the work from Greece, consisting of 21 sculptures, 15 panels, and 75 meters of marble, to Malta where they remained for a few years. Lord Elgin planned to decorate his house with the marbles, but he later sold them to the British government. The act has been the center of a dispute between the United Kingdom and Greece.
IDA requested that the museum allow them to recreate a piece of the marbles by using a 3D-scanner and robot which can reproduce the work with “sub-millimeter” accuracy. In turn, the IDA hopes that the 3D print can replace the actual sculptures held in the British Museum, allowing them to return the marbles to their rightful country.
In order to scan the marbles, pictures of the structures need to be taken in order to render accurate scans. IDA members entered the galleries and took photographs of the marbles, but many pieces need a ladder and extra tools to be reached and scanned. Museum authorities have since accused IDA of breaking visitor guidelines by carrying out unlicensed scanning after their request had been denied.
In October 2021, a UNESCO advisory board pleaded with the British Museum to reconsider its stance on the marbles. The museum and British government rejecting the advice, claiming that the sculptures were brought to Britain legally and that Britain remains the best resting place for the marbles.
IDA relies on past restitution and repatriation cases involving looted artifacts. One of them involved Germany returning 1,000 objects known as the Benin Bronzes back to Nigeria. Roger Michel, director of the IDA, stated that the goal of the scanning is to have a breakthrough with this dispute and to bring the two countries together amicably. There are hopes that when Prince Charles takes the throne of England, he will bring an end to the debate because he is the great-grandson of the Greek King George I.