The British Museum is the main historical and archaeological museum in UK and one of the largest museums in the world. It is located in Bloomsbury, London.
The British Museum was founded in 1753, its first collections were rare works of art by the famous English physician and naturalist Hance Sloan, the earl Harley Robert and the antiquarian Robert Cotton.
Initially the museum was located in an aristocratic building of Montagu House, which opened to visitors in 1759. In 1823–1847 Montagu house was replaced by the architect Robert Smirke with the current museum building in the classical style.
In the 19th century the British Museum had a particularly rapid period of growth. The collection was divided into departments, including numismatics, where coins and medals of various countries and eras, including ancient Greek, Roman and Persian, as well as the collection of king George IV were placed. During the reign of Queen Victoria zoological, botanical, geological, and mineralogical departments were moved to a special museum of natural science, and then in 1845 they were put in South Kensington.
In the first half of the 20th century the British Museum has expanded its collection of art of the Middle East at the expense of numerous excavations in Mesopotamia made by British acrcheologists.
On the ground floor, right in the center there used to be an outdoor patio which was complemented a latticed glass dome in our century. Now the museum is known by this "roof": there are lots of massive buildings with columns all over the world, and a light dome over the strong stone walls turned into another visiting card of London. Construction works were completed in 2000 by the British architect sir Norman Foster.
The collection of the British Museum has over 13 million objects from all continents, it illustrates and documents the history of culture from the beginning of civilization to the present day. Miracles are brought to the Bloomsbury museum from all the most secret corners of the world. There are modern masterpieces and reminders of the peoples that are gone in the distant past among them.
Among the most valuable exhibits of the museum are mummies and coffins, brought from Egypt, the Diamond Sutra, one of the world's oldest printed books, 78 chess pieces from the Isle of Lewis, made over 800 years ago, the Sumerian Standard of war and peace, which is more than 5 thousand years old, the stone idol from Easter island, as well as the man of Lindow – perfectly preserved mummy of a man who lived in the Iron age. However, almost every exhibit in the museum is unique and has a great value.
Conventionally, the museum is divided into 10 major divisions, each of which is divided into sections by periods and countries, each of which has several rooms and halls:
- the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan;
- the Department of Greece and Rome;
- the Department of the Middle East;
- the Department of Prints and Drawings;
- the Department of Britain and Europe;
- the Department of Asia;
- the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas;
- the Department of Coins and Medals;
- the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research;
- libraries and archives.
One can write a whole research work about each department, each one constitutes the greatest treasure of human history!
Here are some of the most outstanding facts of selected collections of the museum.
- The collection of Egyptian exhibits in the British Museum is one of the largest in the world.
- Graeco-Roman collection occupies 12 rooms.
- A lot of exhibits from famous Assyrian reliefs came from the excavations of the ancient capital of Assyria — Nineveh. There are also antiquities of the Eastern Mediterranean and Hittite monuments in the department.
- In the department of prehistoric antiquities and monuments of Roman Britain there are monuments of the material culture of the people since the Celtic tribes and monuments of medieval ecclesiastical art: the details of the temple furnishings, utensils, jewelry.
- In the exhibition of the department of monuments of the Middle Ages and modern age there are many religious objects, silver items, medieval weapons and knight armor, ornaments, pottery and glassware from the 18th and 19th centuries and the world's largest collection of clocks.
The British Museum is also a national library, which today includes about 7 million volumes of printed publications, 200 thousand units of storage of manuscripts in European languages, 500 thousand maps and about a million of copies of sheet music. The scientific library has up to 110 thousand volumes (11 million units) of patents and a collection of about 20 thousand scientific and technical journals. The library of the British Museum accommodates 6 reading halls with 670 seats for readers.
Since 1850s the reading room of the British Museum was located in a separate building — rotunda, where he Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin worked. In 1972, the British Parliament decided to separate the library from the museum and move it to a separate building. Thus was born the British library.
Since 1926, the British Museum publishes a quarterly magazine "British Museum Quarterly".
To be honest, I was not prepared for visiting this museum. My provincial naivete did not expect such a scale and importance of the museum, so the day of the visit was just one of the places where I had to go. After leaving the train at Charing-cross, I went to the British Museum after a brief visit to the National Gallery and a few exhibitions of the London Design Festival. In fact it turned out that it takes more than one day to fully embrace and enjoy all the treasures of huge majestic halls of the museum!
I was pressed for time (4 hours in this museum were like 10 minutes to me), so I will compensate the lack of photos with images from the Internet.
To understand the scale and grandeur of the rooms, you need to exit with the last visitor, when the endless crowds of tourists are gone.
A few photos from the web - something I could not remove - half-empty halls and some special parts of the museum.
The famous glass dome of the Museum, built in 2000 — a new visiting card of London. The light creates a great atmosphere here!
The rotunda at the British library, an archived photo.
I invite you to take a walk in some halls and exhibits of the British Museum with my eyes, or rather through the lens of my camera.
As in the case of the Victoria and Albert Museum, about which I wrote in
Photos posted in the topic below were taken by me during this visit.
A pleasant, inspiring view!
It is a pity that I didn't have enough time, and I am sorry that I can not attach more photos to this publication.
So we will briefly walk through selected halls with you.
Majestic, monumental staircases and rooms — like the scenery of historic films about Ancient Rome.
The decoration of halls is a special aesthetic pleasure. There is nothing superfluous, every detail is thought out and verified.
The monuments of Mesopotamian culture strike with their scale. Egyptian halls seemed to be a "hackneyed theme" on their background, unfortunately, I looked at them on the run.
And this photo stands out for its concept :) Note that there is a good reflection in the window — such a symbolic connection of eras (I noticed that only when I was at home).
The edge of the Asian collection.
The relics of British and European departments, in particular Celtic and pre-Roman era were of particular interest for me. They is little useful information about them.
Mounds, fortresses and "brochs", where archaeologists have found those priceless artifacts.
The treasures of the Iron Age: shields and jewelry. It is amazing that thousands of years ago, people could make such extraordinary things without technology and tools!
Famous chess made of tusks of a walrus form the Scottish island of Lewis, created in 1150-1200. They are supposed to have been brought to the islands during the dominance of vikings in the North of the British Isles.
Celtic and early Christian relics. There are no words...
An incredible, lively and fascinating heritage of the Indians of Central America!
And several beautiful exhibits of the Art Nouveau era (to finish my report on a beautiful note :)).
In the near future I will continue to make publications about the most interesting places in the UK that I was lucky enough to visit in recent years — this one and other museums and exhibitions of London, as well as many unusual places in Scotland. These experiences will remain in my mind and my heart for many years, they are definitely worth sharing!
I hope you enjoyed this little virtual tour of the museum. If so, see you next time!