on November 8, 2008
The British Museum is one of the top museums in the world and for good reason. It's main focus is ancient civilizations and the development of civilization in general. It's also one of the oldest museums in the world, opened in 1759 on the site of the current building which was opened in the mid 1800s and it has expanded several times since then. One of the original buildings considered was Buckingham House which later became Buckingham Palace! The British Museum also consisted of an extensive library, originating with the library items donated by King George III. Up until a few years ago, the Library was also part of the building that currently houses the BM but it now has it's own dedicated building near St. Pancras station, a short distance away. The Natural History museum was built to take on the overflow of that facet of the collections. If you've seen the size of that, you can imagine how much space even a portion of it took under one roof with all the other collections.The British Museum has many very famous items, often brought back from afar during explorations and excursions into places like the South Seas, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Ancient Roman, Greek, Turkish and Absynnian treasures, sculpture, and pieces from tombs and monuments are there. The famed Rosetta Stone that was found by Napoleon's troops in Egypt helped scholars break the code of the hieroglyphics in Egyptian tombs and the Egyptian Mummy collection is probably the best outside of Egypt. You'll need good shoes and stamina to see the whole of the museum's 2 miles of exhibits! Another popular sight is the aforementioned Rosetta Stone. There are usually crowds around this as well so it's sometimes difficult to get in close to have a look. It's also behind glass so if you're taking photos with a flash, approach it from an angle if you can. The huge Elgin Marbles and other ancient stone work such as the Neried monuments are very interesting and are in larger rooms so crowds don't seem to be as much of an issue. If sculpture or mummies aren't your thing, they also have loads of drawings and prints including some by the great masters of the art world such as Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt and Michaelangelo. There are also galleries representing the rich cultures of Africa, Asia, the South Seas and the Americas. In fact, there's a Haida totem pole from Canada in the Great court! I was rather pleased to see that! I've been to the museum twice in my visits to London and would like to go again to see more of it. The first time was some years ago and we walked and walked and walked. There's a lot to take in and you probably shouldn't expect to see the whole of it in one go, even with breaks or a light meal in the cafe. Pick what you would like to see the most and plan your route. But check out some of the other galleries too, you might be pleasantly surprised. The Egyptian antiquities galleries are probably the most popular and thus, the most crowded. Go early if you can. It fills up quickly with school groups and tourists. The second time I went was a couple of years ago. We had hoped to get tickets to the special exhibition about the Chinese Terra Cotta warriors but weren't able to in time. Our stay in London was only brief that time, so we weren't there early to queue for the day-release tickets either. We decided to have a quick look through some of the highlights at least, during a late opening. We did a thorough job of exploring the mummies and other Egyptian items which were really fascinating. The paint and gilding on the caskets is still so bright and vivid, and the hieroglyphics on some of them as clear as if they were written last week. We got a look at the Rosetta Stone and some of the big Greek sculpture, marbles and bronzes as well. One thing that we came across by accident that turned out to be one of my favourite things were these two colossal winged human headed bulls or some sort of mythical animals that were carved in to walls that guarded an Assyrian palace.The British Museum is free for all but special exhibits will have a cost. You can buy tickets for these online. They are often timed tickets for the really popular shows. There are several gift shops and a cafe and there is a lift as well, for disabled access. The main entrance has a little lift to the side of the stairs and there's a level access around the side on Montague Place. It's open late on Thursday and Friday until 8:30 though the Great Court is accessible later than that on those days. Don't really see the point, though, if the galleries aren't open unless they have something particular going on. There are several options if you want to eat or shop. You are allowed to take photos of anything, as well. British Museum website.
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