British Museum: Memories of Ancient and Modern History

I was awakened early in the morning by what I thought was a bird singing. It was only when I saw my friend getting up to switch off the alarm on her phone that I realised it was  time to get up. I checked the time. . . .It was 7 AM. . . . and we had settled down to meet our parents at 9:15 AM. Gleamy eyed I woke up , took a bath and got ready. 

British Museum dekhtei ekta puro din lagbe . . .Bujhli. . . .Okhane ato kichu dekhar ache je ekbar giye dekhe utthe para jai na” (It will take one full day to visit the British Museum. There is so much to see that one day is also not enough), I was told repeatedly by my father who had been to London and the Museum before but was still fascinated every time he went. This got me excited to see the museum. 

Interestingly, on normal days I take the liberty to stretch the time but that day, I was spot on time.  9:15 AM it was and my mother’s phone rang to inform her of our arrival. We took sometime off from the prepared schedule and booked tickets to Madame Tussaud’s for the following day before hitting the roads. After taking a bus, walking for sometime , asking few people around and spotting a gothic looking building which (in my opinion was the museum); we finally found the museum. . . . . .Well one of the entrances of the museum. . 

According to the http://www.britishmuseum.org ” The British Museum was founded in 1753, the first national public museum in the world. From the beginning it granted free admission to all ‘studious and curious persons’. Visitor numbers have grown from around 5,000 a year in the eighteenth century to nearly 6 million today.” . . . .It further states that ” The origins of the British Museum lie in the will of the physician, naturalist and collector, Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753). Over his lifetime, Sloane collected more than 71,000 objects which he wanted to be preserved intact after his death. So he bequeathed the whole collection to King George II for the nation in return for a payment of £20,000 to his heirs. The gift was accepted and on 7 June 1753, an Act of Parliament established the British Museum.

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British Museum, London
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Entrance to the Museum
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Dragon Tiles, China Shanxi Province Ming Dynasty, 1400-1600 Lead Glazed Stoneware “Dragons are associated with good fortune, rain and water; and offered symbolic protection against fire”

After going through a mandatory bag checking and climbing a flight of stairs which reminded me of the Titanic stairs, I chanced upon this. This beautiful dragon tiles was so elaborately and intricately designed. It gives the perfect charm and effect of the Chinese culture; properly preserved centuries after it was actually made.  

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Man’s Cloth by El Anatsui Ghana , 1998-2001 Recycled Metal Foil bottle Neck Wrappers “Erosion of cultural values through unchecked consumerism here symbolised by the bottle necked wrappers.”

I next entered the Afrikaans Gallery which had objects curated from various parts of Africa. This gallery does not have the Egyptian displays as a separate gallery is dedicated to it. 

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Idols on Display

These idols from the display in the African Gallery reflected the tribal culture and handiwork very closely. 

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A Display of pots and jars

Pots. . . Jugs. . . Jars. . . however you name them the objective of these items were the same . . . almost. But their look and design were so different from each other. 

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A display from the Museum

This fish sculpture resembled the flying fish so closely. 

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Idols in the African Brasscasting Section

The Brasscasting section was given a separate space in the museum display. According to the http://www.zyama.com, “The art of bronze casting was introduced around the year 1280. The kingdom reached its maximum size and artistic splendor in the 15th and 16th century. For a long time the Benin bronze sculptures were the only historical evidence dating back several centuries into the West African past, and both the level of technical accomplishment attained in bronze casting, as well as the monumental vigor of the figures represented, were the object of great admiration.” Similarly, “The numerous commemorative brass heads, free-standing figures and groups, plaques in relief, bells and rattle-staffs, small expressive masks and plaquettes worn on the belt as emblem of offices; chests in the shape of palaces, animals, cult stands, jewelry, etc. cast by Benin metalworkers were created for the royal palace.” This is how brasscasting came into existence. 

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Chair made of rifles

One glance at the sculpture and you will notice that  it is a chair which is nothing unusual. But on a closer look you would find that this chair if made of rifles .

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Inca Civilization Idols

I remember reading about the Inca civilisation in the South Americas for the first time in Tintin and the Prisoners of the Sun. The second time they came up was in the British Museum. According to the Ancient History Encyclopaedia, “The Inca civilization flourished in ancient Peru between c. 1400 and 1533 CE, and their empire eventually extended across western South America from Quito in the north to Santiago in the south, making it the largest empire ever seen in the Americas and the largest in the world at that time.” The civilisation was “Famed for their unique art and architecture, they constructed finely built and imposing buildings wherever they conquered, and their spectacular adaptation of natural landscapes with terracing, highways, and mountaintop settlements continues to impress modern visitors at such world-famous sites as Machu Picchu.Regarding the downfall of the civilisation, it has been said that , ” It was this combination of factors – a perfect storm of rebellion, disease, and invasion – which brought the downfall of the mighty Inca Empire, the largest and richest ever seen in the Americas. The Inca language Quechua lives on today and is still spoken by some eight million people. There are also a good number of buildings, artefacts, and written accounts which have survived the ravages of conquerors, looters, and time.”

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Great Hall/ Reading Room (Sculpture, Displays, Library)

Our next destination in the museum was the Great reading room. It had a long passage in the centre with seats to sit . There were sculptures, bust figures, and displays on both side of the path. Running the entire length of the hall on each side were shelves containing books, scriptures or artefacts. It would probably be a 0.3 mile walk from one end of the room to the other. In fact, I remember that standing at the entrance I could not see the exit on the other end. 

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Krishna

There were various displays in the Reading Room, From Ptolemy to Cupids and Rosetta Stone but what caught my attention the most was the beautiful sculptures of Lord Krishna from Hindu Mythology. 

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Museum Display

This sculpture was at the entrance of an amazing gallery. immediately it reminded me of Indian women. Women sitting in front of their doorsteps and making rangoli (patterned designs with colours ) during festivals; women giving alpana (patterned designs made of fabric colors or  rice paste) ; Women in helplessness and it would have gone on and on if someone hadn’t bumped into me by mistake and reminded me of the time. I chose to come out of my dreamland and move on further inside the gallery. 

The objects on display were beautifully made and intricate details were carved to perfection. I need not say anything more; the photos will talk for themselves. 

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Display from the Museum
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Display from the Museum
After seeing the gallery we found ourselves on the portico. This place had the museum shops along with restaurants. A flight of stairs led the visitors to another gallery, this time my favourite-The Egyptian Gallery. Below is a photograph from the portico to the roof of the library. this place has been previously photographed by many in colour and B&W; I tried to follow in their footsteps. 
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View of the roof from the portico

For some strange reason, mummies have attracted me since I was a child. Well, this is not a mummy but a pharaoh would do as well. I usually avoid putting in my photos in the post; but I could not but put this one. 

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Me with Ancient Pharaoh Head in Egyptian Display Section Photo: Dimple Meera Jom

Our last stop was the museum gift shop. As usual postcards was what I ran after. I also saw this huge teddy who probably had ‘eaten’  lots of other smaller teddies. Thus a photo with him was a must. 

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Me with Big Bear in the Museum Shop Photo: Dimple Meera Jom

And lastly, I leave you with a collage of some other displays from the museum. But my adventures are far from over. . . Do come back next week for an exciting adventure ahead. 

papa museum
Photos by Kalyan Sen
mummy folder
Photos by : Shakuntala Sen

Some useful information:

Address: 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB

Opening Times: Mon-Thurs (9:30 AM- 8 PM)

                                Fri- (9:30 AM- 6 PM)

                                Sat- (9:30 AM- 5 PM) 

                                Sun- (11 AM- 5 PM) 

Entry Free

Website: http://www.bl.uk/

115 Replies to “British Museum: Memories of Ancient and Modern History”

  1. I am sad that after living in the UK 2 years I never got this museum to see all these rare artifacts for myself and for FREE no doubt. I got to the V&A and Natural History and wish now this one made it on my list. I have something more to see if I go back!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The best part of the museum is that it is free and yes… Like your relatives said… One full day is required. I loved their Egyptian section, the mummy, the shabtis… Was fun seeing them all. Glad you too had a lovely time.

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  3. Love your photos and all the details about the museum you’ve shared! My time in London was very limited when I visited the UK, so I had to skip the British Museum. I really hope I can go back for a proper visit though.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is one of my favorite places in London. You get to see the world all in one place. Britain brought so many treasures home when they were the rulers of the world. Another great place across the street and a block down from the main entrance is the best Thai food I have ever eaten outside of Thailand.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was lucky enough to live in London, so I would visit the British Museum at least once a month! The collection is so massive, they actually rotate which pieces are on display. They also feature collections from other museums on loan. The British Museum is truly a national treasure!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your father is correct, you can easily return again and again to the British Museum!

    Every time I’ve visited the city, I’ve found myself there at some time.

    It is the perfect way to lose a day, especially if weather is a little miserable!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe. you might want to sit down before i say I have never watched Game of Thrones. Not even one single episode. Having said that, 😛 british Museum is huge. And if you are interested in history, then this is the perfect place for you. But you wont find animal skeletons here, thats kept in the Science Museum.

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  7. One of my cousins in London always praised British musuem. Dragon tiles are beautiful and those displays with intricate designs looks gorgeous. Thing which surprised me was idol of Lord Krishna. I wonder how did they get it there 😊

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  8. The British Museum is a fantastic place and you have documented all this in a great way. I think it needs several visits for different sections of the museum to really get the most out of it. Of course, on holiday this may not be possible but it is a must see!

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  9. The museum seems to be treasure house of ancient history and culture from different parts of the world. The exhibits are rare and fascinating. I agree a day may not be enough to really do justice to the museum and experience all the exhibits.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I haven’t been to the British Museum and admittedly I don’t know much about it, so I was surprised to see some Asian artifacts in there. 🙂 Wow would like to visit and see all the vast collections in there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well if you can do try and visit it once. there are artifacts from every corner of the world . New . .. Old. . . Centuries old. . . .the Reading Room especially is huge. You stand at the entrance and cant see the exit 😛 It has books, artefacts, curations etc etc.

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  11. I’m a sucker for History Museum. I can lost myself in the Louvres and Le Grand Palais for hours. I have my favorite and it may be the MET, because there’s nothing quite remarquable as such place! Tho, I’ve never set foot at the British Museum, your photos and the especially the Egyptian exhibit makes me want to go up there!

    http://tomboychronicle.com/

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  12. The riffles chair is really something unique. I enjoy visiting museum, so British Museum is one of the Museum I’d like to visit. I enjoy reading this post as you put the explanation about what you’ve showed on your photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I couldnt incorporate all, but I try and explain whatever little I incorporate in the post through pictures and a discussion . 🙂 Glad you liked it. thanks For stopping by.

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    1. My fav too. for some reason since childhood ancient Egyptian history its aura and charm; itys mysteries and legends have attracted me too. In India (where I come from) there is only one mummy in the Indian Museum; but the British Museum had way too many of them. 🙂

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  13. Sometimes it’s good to wake up early 🙂 I haven’t been to the British Museum for ages. Definitely should pay a new visit there as soon as possible and check all those (or at least half :)) great points you introduced. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it is intriguing. Something I had never seen before. But if you like that, that i’m sure you would like some of the artwork in the Whitworth Gallery. It’s one of my previous posts in the blog. The gallery is in Manchester and caters to modern art. there is a separate Textile Section in the Gallery. Do check it out sometime, Maybe you will like it. 🙂

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  14. I feel so ashamed that I have never been to the British Museum. I’m a couple of hours away from London but that isn’t far enough to work as an excuse. Your post makes me desperate to visit now though.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Howdy! This post couldn’t be written any better! Looking through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept talking about this. I’ll forward this article to
    him. Fairly certain he will have a good read.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I would love to go through this museum. The great hall is amazing and I can imagine just walking along entranced by all of the beautiful things here. I can see why one day is not enough!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. 🙂 I read it somewhere that the visiting stats are almost 6 million each year. And there are still people who havnt seen this place. So i wish everyone sees it at least once in their lifetime. The Egyptians are my fav. I like the Incas too but they come second. 😛

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  17. Never been to this museum. But I love history and all those civilizations and the different timelines represented. I will sure plan to visit it next time I visit London. The fact that it’s free is also incredible ! Thank you for sharing !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it is. even beautiful are the exhibits. It is truly said that a day is not enough if you are museum lover and want to really see the exhibits. On the other hand an hour and a half is enough for a quick scan. But it might take another 15 min. to find the way out 😛

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