Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The British Museum

I did a brief scouting mission to the British Museum last week - brief because it was only a few hours and, quite possibly, it could take months and months to fully appreciate all that is there and I considered it a scouting mission because I will go back with a better plan! 
Treasures from all over the world fill the vast spaces all the way into the little nooks and crannies of the stairwells.  It made me wonder (with a wee bit of lust) what the storage spaces must be like of all the treasures that are not on view!
I was impressed with the Egyptian displays as well as the Assyrian - they were stunning in their size and diversity of acquisitions.  I wanted to sit on Sekhmet's lap - all of them!  The Winged Bulls cannot be done justice in photos - they must be experienced. 
I wandered through the Egyptian Sculptures to the Assyrian Sculptures, onto the Nineveh Palace Reliefs (disappointed that there was no reliefs depicting Ishtar tho) and into the Nimrud Reliefs and from there to the Greek galleries. 
The Parthenon Galleries popped my happly little explorer bubble.  I even felt a bit ill.  Housed in these vast rooms were huge amounts of friezes and statues and pieces of the actual Parthenon.  I was aware that there had been some contention between the British Museum and Greece over the ownership of the pieces but I was not really prepared for how very, very wrong that they felt in the museum. 
Certainly there were even more sculptures in the Egyptian section and similar vast rooms for the Assyrian displays but neither of them felt wrong. 
The Parthenon Sculptures - aka the Elgin Marbles - do not belong in the British Museum.  Perhaps they feel misplaced because Greece is actively seeking their return - perhaps they should never have left Greece in the first place.
The only other area of the museum that affected me negatively was the Egyptian Funerary Displays.  Mummies and corpses in varying stages of exposure in bright lit rooms with flashbulbs popping every few seconds was not interesting to me at all.  The display could be done with so much more taste and appreciation for the fact that they are actually displaying DEAD BODIES - it was vulgar.  I like the sarcophagi and the outer tombs and casings but to have 40 people crowded around a glass display holding a child's body that was mummified was horrible.  Again - the presentation could be much much better and respectful and perhaps not allowing pictures of the actual bodies would be a good idea.
To wrap up - I LOVE the British Museum and I cannot wait to go back.  I will just avoid some of their displays in the future.

See my Flickr Set for the British Museum

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