Some of the world's leading museums have banded together to declare that, dammit, they're keeping ancient artifacts and will not return them to their country of origin. The declaration says their collections serve as 'universal museums' that allow people fully appreciate ancient civilizations because of the museums' access to archeological, artistic and ethnic objects. If it weren't for the museums providing these inspiring artifacts, there wouldn't be a universal appreciation of ancient cultures, they further argue. As one example, they figure Greek culture wouldn't have become so celebrated if the museums hadn't put the statues on public display. Furthermore, in the case of the Elgin Marbles, the museums also claim to better protect these artifacts from ruin, whether man-made (internal strife or pollution) or natural. Of late, there has been increased calls for museums to return artifacts to their originating country. -- Nigeria <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/1779236.stm">has called for the British Museum to give back</a> a number of statues taken from the kingdom of Benin, taken over by the British in 1897. Omotoso Eluyemi, head of Nigeria's National Commission for Museums and Monuments, argued, 'These objects of art are the relics of our history - why must we lose them to Europe?' (he also quips: 'If you go to the British Museum, half the things there are from Africa. It should be called the Museum of Africa.') -- Turkey managed to get back 363 pieces of gold, silver, precious stones, paintings and sculptures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1993. -- Then there's <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/2441103.stm">another controversy</a> involving the British Museum (who hasn't signed the declaration, but says they support it anyway) over the Elgin Marbles. The British Museum argues to be the best place for the statues taken from the Parthenon in Athens in the 19th century, saying it's protected from Athens' pollution. Greece counters that the statues were intended to be a part of the Parthenon, not 2,000 miles away from it's rightful home. The whole thing ended up inspiring a <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/news/story/0,11711,855659,00.html">parody that fooled</a> a respected Belgium (any sightings of this, Claire?) broadsheet into running the spoof about the builder of the Elgin Marbles, and the whole Parthenon, was British complete with a vehement denial by the Greek Ministry of Culture. SO what do the GA members think? If a museum funds the project, loots the archeological finds in a foreign country, do they need to give back to the country of origin? Or is it funders keepers, country weepers?