4th March 2013
Today we made a quick visit to the British Museum; the plan had been to spend the entire day there but the cloakrooms were full so one of our party had to stay outside with our luggage. After two hours they were rather cold so we got some food in the café (more on that later) and went elsewhere.
I had also planned to see the Ice Age Art exhibition, but it was £10 for a ticket and I ran out of cash on Sunday (I blame that expensive pub meal we had). So instead we took a visit to the temporary exhibits and Room 1 – The Enlightenment, both of which are on the right hand side of the Great Court. Firstly we however we had to get through a shop. I was terrified I’d break something. It was a very distracting shop; quill pens and Folio Society books. Oh the travelling writing desks! I nearly died there and then.
In the temporary exhibits I was principally interested in the Sutton Hoo Hoard, some of which are on display here while their permanent home is being refurbished, and other Anglo-Saxon items, such as the Frank’s Casket and various excavation finds. I confess I spent five minutes staring at the Casket. I’ve waited a long time to see these things.
The quality of items displayed, in the entire exhibit, is impressive and the arrangement of the displays themselves is good. There is room to move and space to stand and stare. Which I did, with my face pressed to the glass.
I did manage to see a little of the ‘Ice Age Art’ in this gallery, one or two items and a replica of the ‘Lion Man’ were left to entice visitors to the full exhibit.
Having fully explored this room we moved on to ‘Enlightenment Room 1: Discovering the world in the 18th century’. This is an overwhelming room, in terms of its scale and contents, and we spent an hour and a half slowly exploring it. Books behind glass line the walls, interspersed with archaeological artefacts and natural treasures. Down the centre of the room cases display further items and explanatory boards, while statuary punctuates the room. So very few of the figures managed to keep their genitalia for some reason and caused some discussion between my companion and myself.
Of particular interest was the copy of the Rosetta Stone (the original is in room 4 and we didn’t get to see it). We spent time touching the copy and I explained to my companion a little of the Stone’s history and how it had been essential to early Egyptologists in the interpretation and translation of hieroglyphs. (As we moved on a tour guide with a large group followed us to the Stone and told them the same things but in a more irritating tone. There’s a reason I rarely go on guided tours; I dislike being talked to as though I was an uneducated moron.)
The room’s layout and the separation of the displays in to different aspects of the Enlightenment allow the visitor to comprehend the excitement and discoveries of the Eighteenth century at leisure.
The few hours I spent in the British Museum fangirling over old books and whalebone boxes were very enjoyable, and the staff, from observation, helpful and knowledgeable.
We also ate at the museum, and since I couldn’t say much about the V & A’s café I have something to say about the British Museum’s.
It was expensive – £4.50 for a cheese and tomato baguette, £2.00 for a can on lemonade, £2.00 for a scone with butter and jam (actually that was quite reasonable – it was a nice scone). While the food was very tasty it was still a bit of a shock to find my small dinner came to £9.00. I had considered a hot meal but it was ridiculously priced and somewhat fussy – it was about £9.00 for a pie and another £2.00 if you wanted veg with it.
Next time I plan to go in the middle of my trip to London so I don’t have the hassle of where to keep my luggage, and I’ll take a picnic in my backpack and eat outside.