on August 8, 2012
It has always been an ambition of mine to visit the British Museum. For many years, I was desperately keen to view the treasures it contains. Therefore, when I dragged my girlfriend along Tottenham Court Road and into the lavish imperial surroundings, expectations were high. They were probably so high that no matter what the museum contained, I was not quite going to be satisfied. However, whilst I was not 100% blown away, the British Museum was wonderful and we were very impressed.We started our visit in the Middle East and Islamic section of the museum, which was wonderful. It featured artefacts from Persia and the Ottoman Empire that were fantastic. There were some fantastic murals and pottery as well as some wonderful carpets and tapestries. From there, we moved onto the North America section, which focused on native civilizations such as American 'Indians' and the Aztecs and Mayans from Mexico. There were some very interesting displays including some wonderful masks.The Islamic sections and the North American sections were excellent. However, they were blown out of the water completely by the Egyptian Greek sections. The Egyptian section features artefacts from the era of the Pharaohs with sculptures and statues taken from the Pyramids and the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Many of these are absolutely stunning and in fantastic condition. There were some small sphinx's and sculptures of Pharaohs that simply dominated the room and took the breath away. The only better display of Egyptian artefacts comes in Cairo's Egyptian Museum. The Greek room was similarly impressive. It featured huge displays from across the ancient Greek Empire that were truly stunning. There were scores of sculptures and murals. However, the centre-piece was the display of murals from the Parthenon. These were absolutely magnificent. The carving was so beautiful and delicate that it felt scarcely believable that they were over 2,000 years ago.The British Museum is very much in the traditional school of museums. There are no new-fangled gizmos such as interactive touch screens or video displays. It relies solely on the gravity of the objects it has on display to keep visitors interesting. As these artefacts are so wonderful, this works well. It creates a magnificent feeling of tradition and history. I felt that I was almost gaining knowledge by simply breathing in the air that surrounded some of the displays.As wonderful as the museum was, I had a few grumbles about it. The first is the amount of space that goes unused. There is a huge central area that has very few actual displays and could easily be utilised to display more artefacts. It is well-known that the museum is in possession of huge amounts of ancient artefacts that are in storage and not on display. A great example of this is the collection of Silk Road artefacts brought (less than ethically) to the UK by the explorer/robber Aurel Stein. This collection is large enough to fill a museum on its own, but the majority remains in packing crates. It would be wonderful if the museum were to use the space better and to get some of this on display.The British Museum is a fantastic educational experience. I waited a long time to visit, but if I had the opportunity, I would return tomorrow. Admission is free.
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