The London-Palmyra arch in the press


The Palmyra arch in Trafalgar Square. Image credit: Maitrayee Biswas via flikr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I’ve been reviewing the news coverage of the Palmyra arch as I write my paper for NAPS. On April 19th 2016 a “faithful copy” of the Arch of Triumph at Palmyra was erected in Trafalgar Square. It was widely reported in the UK press and there were a number of comment pieces about it. I’ve done a quick overview of this coverage, dividing it into UK news reports, UK comment and international news reports. Please let me know via the comments if there are any more good examples to add.

UK news reports

The BBC reports comments about defiance by the Mayor of London (Boris Johnson) and the claim by Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria’s director of antiquities that the arch is part of Syria’s “universal” heritage. The arch is described as a “restoration”.

The Guardian carries some interesting quotes, including an evolutionary sketch of religious history from BoJo and a comparison between Palmyra and London during the Blitz from Roger Michel, director of the Institute for Digital Archaeology (note the letter by Michel in this link). Michel also talks about monuments as embodiments of history.

The FT calls the London arch a “ghost”. Can a ghost be solid? I had to answer a question about travel sweets to read this (“mints” was the correct answer). Also carries quotes about “cultural links”: “people will see the link between the [classical] architecture in Trafalgar Square and the arch.”

A brief report in wired which focuses on the process behind the reconstruction. Particularly interested to note that the arch was placed on an at risk list in the Million Image database (IDA again). I’d like to know more about the methodology here.

UK comment

dezeen has some lovely quotes about human civilisation and the value of Palmyra’s ruins.

Melanie McDonagh in eyebrow-raising mood in the Evening Standard, making the link between the Arch and the Elgin Marbles. “[T]hank God for the enterprising, acquisitive Victorians.”

International news reports

In Le Nouvel Observateur, a good report (by Claire Fleury) on the wider context of this, particularly the role of Palmyra in the media war. Worth pointing out in response to this that archaeological sites have often been used for propaganda or obviously ideological purposes.

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