Getty Conservation Center Lecture – “Phidias Unbound”


Lillian Wonderly, Entertainment Editor

On Friday, October 14th, University of Hartford students had the opportunity to virtually attend the Getty Conservation Center Lecture called “Phidias Unbound.” The lecture discussed how robot-generated replicas could solve the Parthenon marble’s predicament. The Parthenon Marbles, commonly known as the Elgin Marbles, were removed from the ancient Acropolis of Athens in 1801 by Lord Elgin, British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Carved by the sculptor Phidias, they were eventually sold to the British government in 1817 and are housed in the British Museum. Public debate about repatriating the marble is heated and ongoing.

The host of the lecture is Roger Michel, Executive Director of the Institute of Digital Archaeology, at the University of Oxford. He believes the repatriation issue can be resolved with the help of 3-D machining. His research team has developed a robot with the ability to create faithful copies of large historical objects. Michel will explore humanity’s connection to culturally significant objects and the emphasis we place on physical possession. Is possession an inherently colonial concept? Are heritage assets particularly susceptible to being exploited for the purposes of historical revisionism? Under what circumstances can copies provide satisfactory substitutes for the original material? These questions will be examined against the backdrop of the IDA’s ongoing Elgin repatriation efforts.