London: British Museum

The day after the art-filled visit with Natalie, and feeling a bit more confident with the transit system, my husband and I ventured out on our own on the double-decker bus. We sat up on top, front row and enjoyed the street scenes and variety of architecture. We had a map book and tried to follow the route, something that I like doing in new places, perhaps it gives me a sense of grounding and direction.

So we found our way to the British Museum. What a huge and impressive piece of classical architecture with its Greek columns and immense courtyard full of crowds of mostly students. Inside the glass-covered inner Great Court was a wonderful and bright and airy space.


We knew that it would be impossible to see everything so we tried to choose areas that were less known to us. The first thing we came upon with a bit of a feeling of surprise was the Rosetta Stone (above left). Covered in reflective glass and surrounded by masses of people all trying to take photos, it was hard to get a good image. (Here’s a reasonably good one).

Nearby was the Egyptian hall with its immense pillars and sculptures, like the one above right, some with hieroglyphics. Beyond were the Assyrian friezes or stone panels that I loved the most of what we did see, some favourites are shown in the photos below.




We visited the North-American native room and the Mexican one (with a photo below), rather small collections in comparison. We really enjoyed the Armenian, early-Turkish and Mesopotamian collections. Much as we wanted to see more of other cultures, by then we were tired and dazed and found ourselves just walking more quickly through some rooms, just skimming immense collections of precious objects in glass cases on our way to the exit.


Unfortunately, the card in our camera was full too quickly and I was very upset not to get more photos! We’d forgotten to erase photos from back home, plus new ones from our first three days. A lesson learned – we downloaded them at the end of each day after that, as well as recharging the batteries. I had hoped to get back to the Museum again but we ran out of time and energy. Another year hopefully.

What is it about museums of civilization, history, archaeology and antiquities that interest me almost more than art museums? Really, what we saw was art, VERY old art. Archaeology and art are very close, I think, and therein lie my passions.

Entry to the British Museum is free, except for the temporary traveling exhibitions and that to me is a model I wish we had in Canada. Of course, the museum has an immense collection that’s been donated by wealthy collectors since the mid 18th century, often from the spoils of war and empire building, something that kept niggling at the back of my mind even as I admired all of it.

By the way, I recently learned that the Royal BC Museum in Victoria is presenting the North American premiere of Treasures: The World’s Cultures from the British Museum, May 1st until September 30th. How cool is that?!

June 5, 2009 in Rock Art & Archaeology, Travel by Marja-Leena