Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Treasuring the British Museum

I want to go live at the British Museum for awhile. Like the little girl who runs away from home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

That might be a little tough to pull off, but if I can't move in, I'd at least like a week to explore and sketch.

Seven million objects, and I only had time to sketch one!

So many fascinating treasures--over seven million to be exact!

The day we gave ourselves to explore certainly wasn't close to adequate for even a glimpse. I didn't know where to look, beauty and wonder were everywhere.

Walking through it is like seeing the history of the world unfold before your eyes.

The collection began with physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), who acquired over 71,000 objects over the course of his life, and wanted them to remain intact. He willed them all to King George II and through an act of Parliament, the British Museum was created in 1753. It opened to the public in 1759 on the same site where today's museum is located. Admission was freely given to all "studious and curious Persons."

Except for the two World Wars, the British Museum has been open ever since with visits growing from 5,000 people each year to 6 million a year today.

The original collection consisted mostly of books, manuscripts, natural specimens and a few antiquities.

Today's seven million objects include the Rosetta Stone, The Elgin Marbles (from the Parthenon), objects that illustrate ancient life in the Nile Valley and Medieval culture in Europe. Prehistoric tools. Buddhist paintings from the Dunhuang caves in Central Asia.

The dome over the Great Court (the largest covered public square in Europe) is a marvel in itself...

The collection of blue and white ceramics alone deserve their own post (stay tuned for that). Who wants to go on a field trip?


  1. wow what an all encompassing story! I haven't been to the British Museum in a decade--thanks for taking me back!

  2. LOVE the British Museum - haven't been there in over 20 years (I guess I'm dating myself). Think I'm overdue for a trip to London!

  3. It was nearly 20 years ago for me, too, and I didn't make it to the British Museum. I can't believe I didn't go... Thanks so for stopping by the blog and sharing my vacation memories.



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