Visiting the British Museum, London, UK
The first view of the British Museum prepares you for the sheer scope and audacity that you will find in the museum itself. The exterior of the museum, constructed in Greek Revival fashion with its looming columns and sculptures adorning the top of the building, is truly beautiful to view. When you enter the museum itself, the true nature of the museum is revealed. Although the museum is somewhat ironically titled the “British Museum,” it actually attempts to encompass much of human civilization. There is art and history from all over the world in this collection, from the periods of Ancient Egypt and Rome, to more modern artifacts from the 19th and 20th century that hail from Asia. There is so much to do and see in this museum that one could spend days in here and not soak in all the information there is to gather. However, if you only have a few hours to spend here on your visit, then the museum's fantastic exhibits from Ancient Egypt and the Classical World are what you have to check out.
|British Museum, London, UK|
Enter the museum and turn left when you reach the center of the ground floor and you will probably see a mass of people huddled around a large stone. This is the Rosetta Stone, one of the museum's most famous artifacts. First discovered in 1799, the stone has been on display in the British Museum since 1802. To the left and right of the Stone you will see some of the museum's collection from Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The ground floor mostly features large sculptures of famous Egyptian kings and Pharaohs, parts of Egyptian architecture, hallways of hieroglyphs from the Assyrian Empire, and large coffins and statues used in the burial process. Some of the highlights from this floor from the Ancient Middle East include the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, the human headed winged bulls sculptures from Khorsabad, the red granite sarcophagi with paneled exterior surfaces, and the full-scale reconstruction of the Balawat Gates of Shalmaneser III. The gates stand about 20 feet high and are made up of 13 bronze bands which depict scenes of war and sacrifice from the military campaigns of Shalmaneser III. I would almost call this section of the museum full of hidden gems because compared to the Egyptian gallery right on the other side, this gallery is less frequented and it is easier to get up close for pictures and a better look at the objects.
|Rosetta Stone, British Museum, London, UK|
On the right side of the Rosetta Stone is the museum's stunning collection of sculptures and other objects from Ancient Egypt. Some of the busts and statues that must be seen are the colossal bust of Ramesses II in room 4 (hard to miss!), the statue of Amenhotep III, the three black granite statues of pharaoh Sesotris III (perfect for a photo-op with two other friends) and of course the famous Gayer-Anderson Cat. Although the cat is named after the man who donated it to the museum, the cat itself is actually a representation of the cat goddess Bastet, who was believed to have been worshiped since at least the Second Dynasty. It is easy to get lost in this exhibit, as there is so much to see and the scope of it all is so amazing, but make sure to take some time and actually read some of the information the museum provided as there is a lot to be learned here. This section of the museum also features many coffins from the era that are interesting to view to see the full size and scale in which the mummies were buried in. Although if you want to see some mummies you will have to venture up to the upper floors...
|Gayer Anderson Cat, British Museum, London, UK|
The galleries on the second floor contain the museum's vast collection of mummies, coffins and other burial objects. For those interested in the preservation of bodies and mummification, there is a lot to be learned so I suggest reading all that you can. In addition, I recommend the video showing the discovery of the lost tomb-chapel of Nebamun in the Michael Cohen Gallery. Other objects that must be seen include the Sphinx of Taharqo (meant to represent the immense power of the Egyptian and Kushite pharoah Taharqo), the Royal Shabti-figures from Nuri (cute little mini-mummies!), and the gallery of Room 63, which is all about the Egyptian funeral process and archeology.
|Sphinx of Taharqo, Brisith Museum, London, UK|
The other exhibit you have to spend some time exploring in the British Museum is the vast collection of history the museum houses from Ancient Rome and Greece. Some quick highlights are the famous Parthenon galleries, the reconstruction of the Nereid Monument, some ancient statues from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), and of course the large collection of famous marble sculptures, some of which include the “Crouching Venus” and the “Spinario (Boy With Thorn). For those interested in architecture, the Parthenon Galleries feature a wealth of information that is even fascinating for someone with little knowledge on the subject. Also worth checking out is the museum's galleries on Roman life on the upper floors, where you can learn all about every aspect of Roman life and check out a large collection of artifacts from the era.
|Dionysus Pediment Parthenon, British Museum, London, UK|
Overall, this is one of the best museums in London and definitely one worth paying multiple visits to. The incredible amount of history that spans the course of human civilization present in this museum is wonderful to take in, and this write-up truly doesn't do the museum justice. However, if you only have time for one visit, then the Museum's exhibits on Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Classical World will most likely be the best use of your time.
-By Phillip Storm, Arts Correspondent VisitMuseums.com