Closest Underground Station: Russell Square
Admission: Free (apart from certain exhibitions)
The British Museum (‘BM’) is by far, my favourite museum in London. It may even be my favourite museum in the world – although the Egyptian Museum of Berlin still eludes me!
The BM was founded in 1753 through the Will of Sir Hans Sloane, and reportedly houses 8 million artefacts. These antiquities range from Ancient Egypt and Sudan, to Ancient Greece and Rome. It also holds artefacts from Africa, South America, Europe and the Middle East, spanning over 2 million years of history.
The museum is free to enter, and also holds a number of free events and gallery talks.
On one particular occasion, I attended a gallery talk about the Mexican Day of the Dead. Our guide, Elizabeth Baquedano (renowned historian and lecturer at UCL), took us around the Mexican gallery and talked around some of the artefacts present, linking Aztec culture to the modern celebration of the Day of the Dead. She also brought some of her own materials along to explain things further. As a free event, these talks are brilliant; it’s like being part of a historical documentary, while being in the presence of the experts.
I recently attended an exhibition called Ancient Lives. This exhibition contains eight mummies, in different states of mummification. The exhibition details the stories of the people behind the wrappings, and gives information on the way mummification changed depending on the time period and the status of the deceased person. Advancements in technology mean that there is also a scientific element to the exhibition, whereby those attending can use the BM’s interactive screens to analyse every detail, down to the preserved stomach contents of the bodies!
This exhibition has remained so popular that is has been extended several times. It is currently open until 12th July 2015 and tickets can be purchased here – http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/ancient_lives.aspx .
As an Ancient Egypt fanatic, I was VERY excited to go to this exhibition. Whether you’re interested in mummification and ancient history, or simply a fan of the ‘creep factor’, I would thoroughly recommend it either way!
NB: may not be suitable for young children!
Like a lot of the major museums in London, the BM is open late every Friday night (until 8:30pm). A lot of people may think it’s a bit lame to spend your Friday night at a museum, but I think it’s the perfect way to melt away the stresses of the week. It is also often a far more pleasant time of the week to visit the BM, as the crowds are much smaller!
During these ‘lates’, the BM often put on special events and exhibition openings. I recently attended the opening event for the new ‘Indigenous Australia’ exhibition. This involved aboriginal music and dances, as well as storytelling, food and drink. While these events are usually very interesting, the best part is that they are free to attend; if you get bored at any point you are free to leave and move on to a different area of the BM, without the stress of feeling that you have wasted money on a ticket!
The BM is a museum that I can spend hours perusing at leisure, or that I can visit to kill a spare hour while in the city. It is a place I have visited on countless occasions due to the sheer amount and variety of artefacts on offer. I always feel that I have left the museum with a little bit of extra knowledge, and this is mainly down to the clear and welcoming presentation of the museum.
One exhibit that always sticks with me is the Tree of Life. This can be found in the ‘Africa’ section of the museum, and it is a sculpture made from disused guns and other weapons. These weapons were collected by 4 artists from Mozambique, as part of the Transforming Arms into Tools project in the 1990’s. Villages were encouraged to turn over weapons they had accumulated during the civil war in exchange for items such as ploughs or bikes. In one case, an entire village gave up their weapons in exchange for a tractor.
So next time you’re in London and feel like learning about different cultures through history, or just fancy some quiet contemplation, go down to the British Museum. You never know, you might discover something which changes the way you think about everything..!
Thanks for reading,
~ Plane Emoji