Turkey is taking tougher action to try to get some of the best-known museums in the world to return artefacts. The Minister of culture and tourism, Ertugrul Gunay has said that during the last 10 years more than 4,000 artefacts have been returned to Turkey from collections and museums around the world.
Turkey recently opened a new archaeological museum in Izmir, and Gunay is determined to recover Turkey’s rich heritage. Even more new museums are planned, while existing ones have received extensive renovations.
Court action is being taken to recover artefacts from other countries museums, but Gunay is also taking a more proactive approach. Earlier on in the year the British Museum wished to borrow artefacts for a major exhibition, but this was vetoed until it returned artefacts that were apparently illegally taken. Similar actions are being taken to try to force the hand of other major museums.
Apparently the consequences could be quite considerable as many of the artefacts are large, including sarcophagus and statues, as well as thousands of ceramic materials and coins. Turkey is also a popular country for visiting archaeologists, and as such has threatened to suspend permits for overseas archaeologists until their country agrees to return artefacts currently under dispute. It recently took this action against a German archaeologist, and the museum in question did eventually capitulate.
One of the reasons for this big drive to return artefacts to the country is in order to attract more tourists. Turkey wants to become known as a destination that has far more to offer than just beaches and more or less guaranteed sun. Part of the current policy is to construct one of the largest archaeological museums in the world in the capital of Ankara. However some are concerned the government policy is too aggressive and feel compromising could be more successful, and suggest lending artefacts to foreign museums for decades at a time.