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Blog: Afternoon In The Museum

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On Saturday I made a foray into London Town which, once again, did not look quite as much like "28 Days Later" as one might expect. It was quiet, but then Bloomsbury on a Saturday afternoon (for that is where I were) is ALWAYS quiet, and there was a marked lack of windswept rubbish or zombies.

I had booked myself a slot for a visit to The British Museum, as The Items In My Exhibition had been a few weeks previously and HIGHLY recoemmended it. I got there 3 minutes early for my slot, and was told very politely to wait outside the gates, but when I did get in I found that the whole place had been set up in a one way system, so everybody walked around the same exhibits rather being able to dash about willy nilly. This made it a bit like going for a Big Shop in Tesco, as you saw the same people all the time while you strolled through, so it felt like there were only about 10 of you there all going round together.

I know my Museum Visiting Priorities, and so my FIRST stop was the loo, my SECOND was the bookshop (where I bought a book which is basically "Philosphy For Dummies" which is something I've been after for AGES) and my THIRD was the cafe for a cup of coffee and a sandwich. With all that done I was ready to start the strollalong, which began with The Egyptians. COR! The Egyptians is a HECK of a place to start, and as ever I could feel my MIND BOGGLING at the idea that there were statues here that had been put up FOUR AND A HALF THOUSAND BLOODY YEARS AGO!! ZOINKS!

I worked next door to the British Museum for YEARS and popped in MANY time so thought I'd been everywhere, but it turns out, thanks to the one-way system, that I had not! There were loads of new-to-me sections, and whilst wandering through I was struck by the sight of exhibits in gloomy corners which were ANCIENT and probably PRICELESS but were likely not looked at by many people at all. I made sure to go and give them a good LOOK to make up for it!

After the Egyptians it was some VASES, which were a bit underwhelming at first after all that but then I got to a sign about the people who'd made them. It turns out that some of the names of Ancient Greek Potters are well known because they'd signed them. This ALSO always blows my mind - it's like Vindolanda, the Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall where we know HUGE amounts about the people who lived there thanks to discarded notes that got chucked down the toilet. These soldiers, and the Greek potters, were ordinary people who happened to get immortalised, whilst all the bosses and officials' names were lost. Who knows what of us will be left two to four thousand years from now eh?


Next on the route was The Parthenon Sculptures, which I always find is a bit of an UNEASY visit as a) it's all amazing but b) it's TOTALLY NICKED. The British Museum is doing stuff about decolonisation and where the collection comes from, with information boards every so often which tells you how they got hold of things. It's all done very politely but never actually says out loud "THIS IS ALL NICKED". This was especially notable when I got round to the Easter Island Head, who is one of my favourite exhibits. He's now got some offerings in front of him from the people of Rapa Nui (which is the proper name for Easter Island, GET WITH IT) who want to take him home. "Discussions are ongoing" says the official text, although the case to keep him in the UK is not helped AT ALL by the preceding description of how he came to be here in the first place i.e. a bunch of sailors rolled up with ropes AND NICKED IT.

The statue appears in my BOOK what I wrote, and I was reminded about this towards the end of the route as I walked through the "Enlightenment" section, which is a huge LIBRARY along the East side of the building. It would have been the perfect place for one of the BIG CHASES in that story, but I'd forgotten it was there. Next time I do a re-write I'll have to shoehorn it in!

I must admit I did miss quite a LOT of stuff in the second half of the walk because my BRANE was DONE IN by it all, but I did also see some ART. There's a Grayson Perry installation called The Tomb Of The Unknwon Craftsman which was a Lovely Idea, as it's dedicated to the people who actually MADE all the stuff in the musuem whose names we DON'T know, and Edmund De Waal's Library of Exile, which is a small room with some books in it. You were invited to sign a book that meant something to you, which I did, but it wasn't quite as moving as the G Perry one.

After all THAT I staggered out blinking into the fresh air and headed to the WHISKY shop for some retail therapy. It had been a GRATE trip but crumbs, I think I'm going to need to go again to try and fit the rest of it into my poor old BRANE!

posted 20/10/2020 by MJ Hibbett

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