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Commodifying ancient cultural heritage: the market evolution of the Parthenon temple

Zafeirenia Brokalaki (Marketing, Innovation, Strategy and Operations, School of Business, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)
Georgios Patsiaouras (Marketing, Innovation, Strategy and Operations, School of Business, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 28 July 2021

Issue publication date: 26 January 2022

550

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to show and critically discuss the motivations, conflicting narratives, practices and effects around the marketisation of cultural heritage. The work focusses on the exemplar case study of the ancient temple of the Athenian Parthenon, as a proto-brand, to explore ancient, medieval and modern marketing forces and practices through which various stakeholders have promoted, gifted, commercially traded, exchanged, acquired and illegally removed national cultural artefacts and historical monuments.

Design/methodology/approach

The study is based on a structured historical periodisation that covers three main eras – classical age, late antiquity and modern period – that triggered the marketisation of the ancient temple in diverse ways. First, historical research was conducted through the use of a range of secondary sources and archives. Second, observation techniques were used to study heritage marketisation practices at the New Acropolis Museum and the Parthenon in Athens and the British Museum in London. Third, visual material further facilitated the analysis.

Findings

This paper identifies multifarious institutional forces, political interests, technologies and sociocultural events that shape the commodification of history and marketisation of heritage offering a broader discussion on the evolution of early marketing practices and brands used to promote particular values, cultures and places, as well as the emergence and growth of illicit arts and antiquities markets.

Originality/value

Considering the lack of marketing research on the commercialisation of heritage, the work discloses novel insights around the use of cultural proto-brands and the formation of illegal markets and questionable arts trade practices. It, therefore, questions the ethical, socio-political, economic and aesthetic implications of the extensive marketisation of history and raises issues around the legitimate ownership, promotion and consumption of heritage.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the Editors of the Special Issue and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback, valuable ideas and support throughout the process.

Citation

Brokalaki, Z. and Patsiaouras, G. (2022), "Commodifying ancient cultural heritage: the market evolution of the Parthenon temple", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 4-23. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHRM-09-2020-0036

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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