May 9, 2024 - News

Parthenon will return artifacts to Mexico

The art gallery at the Parthenon

The art gallery at the Parthenon. Photo: Courtesy of the Parthenon

The Metro-owned Parthenon art museum will return 248 pre-Columbian artifacts, which it has owned for decades, to a museum in Mexico later this summer.

Why it matters: There's a growing focus globally on how museums came to possess items in their collections, from Jewish-owned artwork stolen during the Holocaust to artifacts acquired during Colonial conquests.

Driving the news: The Parthenon opened a new exhibit in April called "Repatriation & Its Impact," which the museum describes as an exploration of the effects of cultural looting in the arts and antiquities trade.

  • The exhibit turns the focus on the Parthenon's own collection combined with new works by Nashville-based artist José Véra González. The exhibit runs until July 14.
  • Originating in western Mexico, the 248 artifacts were donated to the Parthenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

State of play: Metro Council passed legislation on Tuesday entitling the Parthenon and the Metro Parks Department to return the items to Mexico. Included in the collection are small adornments, zoomorphic images, ceramic pots, musical instruments and hand tools.

  • The city worked with the General Consulate of Mexico, located in Atlanta, to determine how to return the items to their region of origin.
  • The collection will go to the Institute of Anthropology and History Museum in Mexico City this summer.

What they're saying: Metro Parks director Monique Horton Odom called the repatriation of the items "a cultural obligation as well as a moral responsibility."

  • "These artifacts have value and meaning to the people of Mexico and should be housed where they will have a dynamic impact on understanding the people and culture of the past," she said in a press release.
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