wandering amphibia

Trip Report – RTW – Part 6: London Day 3 – The British Museum

One of the most impressive achievements of the British Empire was to meticulously collect artefacts, pack them up and drag them to London, where they were all hoarded and put on display over the centuries that the British Empire prospered. Of course, there are arguments on how legal this is, and there is plenty of discussion on this subject; entirely from a personal and selfish standpoint, I am more than happy to have it all in one place, as I can see the various treasures of the world in one location.

The other thing that I found quite surprising, and obviously appreciated, is the fact that everything is free. The Science Museum was free. The British Museum is free. It is truly a statement on the commitment to the advancement of culture when such collections are put on display for free. Take that, Louvre.

The rather imposing stone at the entrance:IMG_2036

The front court:IMG_2037

A child on a leash:IMG_2038

The inner court:IMG_2039 IMG_2040 IMG_2042

Since we only had an afternoon, and since a good-quality visit to the British Museum can take a solid week, if not more, we had to focus our attention on the key artefacts on display. There are many, but some represent cornerstones of our society, and this was worth seeing.

The Portland vase:IMG_2043 IMG_2044 IMG_2045

The Japan section (it had a whole small wing, all to itself):IMG_2046

This was interesting, because the katana on display dates back to about the year 1200, but the metal, and the blade, are perfectly clean and smooth. Of course, this sort of thing gets polished and so on, but try polishing a kitchen knife from about 1990 – that should make you appreciate a blade from 800 years ago that still looks brand new today.IMG_2047

Persian golden artefacts from about 5th-4th centuries BC (the Oxus treasure):IMG_2048

This in particular is the Oxus Chariot model:IMG_2050 IMG_2051

The Lewis Chessmen (popularised in Harry Potter, but immortalised far before that):IMG_2052 IMG_2053 IMG_2054 IMG_2055 IMG_2056

And, of course, the Rosetta Stone. It is absolutely fascinating in person, and once you see the hieroglyphics, demotic and Greek texts, it kind of dawns on you how impressive it is.

All the while there are idiots taking pictures of themselves with the Rosetta Stone in the background. It is an aside, but I honestly have never understood the appeal of that. Why would one take a picture of themselves beside a famous artefact? I have seen this with the Venus de Milo in Louvre, the Minotaur torso in the Louvre, the Rome wolf in Rome, and the list goes on, and on, and on, and people just do. not. stop. It’s not like they discovered it, so why do they put their tourist faces beside such precious objects? It was no different with the Rosetta stone. If they need proof of having been there, then isn’t the picture itself sufficient proof? Anyway, I digress. Back on subject.IMG_2060

A sphinx:IMG_2062

iPhone cases in the shop outside (notice Hiroshige’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa – isn’t it awesome how Hiroshige’s prints are all over the place, and all “original”?). The Rosetta Stone case was actually not bad. But considering how anti-iPhone-case I generally am (why destroy the otherwise beautiful design with a bulky concoction?), I passed.IMG_2063

This is something I have wanted to see for a very, very long time. Having missed the awesome business class sale from JFK to IPC (Easter Island) on American Airlines for $900 round-trip (well, didn’t quite miss it, more like realised I couldn’t possibly make this many trips and still remain gainfully employed), I figured this was a great backup plan.

Really, it is awesome. Now I regret not having gone to IPC, but now I want to go twice as much. Sadly, only oneworld flies there, but we’ll figure it out when the time comes.IMG_2065 IMG_2066

Egyptian frescoes:IMG_2067 IMG_2068 IMG_2069 IMG_2070 IMG_2071 IMG_2072 IMG_2073 IMG_2074 IMG_2075 IMG_2076

And, of course, (currently) one of the most disputed collections at the British Museum – the Elgin Marbles, aka the Parthenon Collection that Greece wants back so much. Not that I’m against it, but, you know, it would be nice if the rest of the Parthenon was there to put this collection in it on display……… oh wait, it kind of got destroyed along with most of the rest of Ancient Greece.IMG_2077 IMG_2079 IMG_2081 IMG_2082 IMG_2083 IMG_2084 IMG_2085 IMG_2087

More tourists taking pictures of themselves. These are desperate enough to do it in front of a random lion at the entrance, not even in the galleries.IMG_3716

All in all, a very worthwhile visit. Truly, the British Museum is a phenomenal collection of artefacts of humanity, and certainly deserves more than the four or five hours that we allocated it.