Friday, September 18, 2009

The Very British Museum

I ended up spending four or five days longer in London than I had originally intended. This is not because I was having so much fun in London that I didn't want to leave, but rather because I could not stomach trying to sort out more travel and accommodation earlier this week. I went shopping, saw fireworks and parades at the Thames Festival, stared out the window at rain, and spent two days at the British Museum. The British Museum is free, technically making it infinitely better value than the Louvre or the Deutsches Museum, or what have you.

As near as I can tell, it serves two main purposes. Firstly, it is to display the history of civilisation and culture and seen through the eyes of British people who like to steal things off foreigners. One of the best examples of this is the Elgin Marbles which are carvings and statuary taken from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin. Technically it wasn't stolen because he did get written permission from the Turks to take the stuff away from the Greeks, which makes it alright. Look at the examples below, and see if you can spot what makes these particular pieces so unique and valuable among all of the remnants of ancient Greece.


That's right, almost every figure in the set is almost fully clothed, which is completely unprecedented for the period (I am heartily sick of seeing ancient Greek wangs).

The second purpose of the museum is to ensure that no matter how impressive the exhibit, be it colossal pharaoh sculptures or seven metre tall bronze clad gates, that they look small and a bit less impressive than the British Museum building itself. This has historically allowed the British to appreciate the history of the world without forgetting that in the end it's a bit foreign and a bit rubbish compared to Mother England. In fairness, the British Museum is an intimidatingly grand building.
From London
Next stop, Montreal.

2 comments:

  1. I loved the British Museum, but was also thoroughly depressed by the end of it. I'm not sure how many times you can read about how the 3 separate limbs, head, and upper body of a statue were all broken off and taken to various other museums/collections before the Brits finally showed up to nick what was left.

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  2. Yeah, it's amazing how recent the idea of preserving old things is. At least the Brits say they took it, rather than do a France and say "oh, no it was totally a gift. It was our birthday."

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