Sunday, April 10, 2011

The British Museum

Since I am a total history nerd, Lee and I had quite the historical weekend :) We went to London on Saturday and this time I wanted to go see the British Museum, so that's what we did. If I could only use one word to describe this place, it would be impressive. And the cool thing is it's totally free*, so you just walk on in and wander around to look at all the cool historical stuff...and you could wander around in there for a year and not see it all. *And* they let you take pictures in most of the exhibits too, so like I said, this is a really cool place.

*K, so they have some exhibits from time to time that you have to pay to see, but the vast majority of it is free.

And huge. Here's a few photos in the Great Court:

I don't think the photos could possibly convey just how massive the Great Court is, but trust me, it's ginormous. Very light and airy too thanks to the glass ceiling.

We donated a pound to the museum to get a map of the place, and then I made a beeline for the Ancient Greek exhibits.

We saw lots and lots of pottery.

And naked people on the pottery, but this is a G-rated blog.

This is Pericles, an Athenian warrior and statesman who died in 429 B.C. This is a Roman copy of a Greek original statue, which seems to be a common theme...lots of the original Greek pieces were lost or broken or stolen by aliens, but we still have a number of Roman copies, which is cool.

This is the Nereid Monument, which was a tomb built in the style of ancient Greek temples. The three statues in the front are Nereids, sea nymph daughters of Nereus, the Old Man of the Sea.

I so want to go to Greece.

Next up, we saw the exhibit I was mainly looking for: the Elgin Marbles, which were taken from the Parthenon in the early 1800s to preserve them and allow visitors from around the world to view them.

There's a recurring controversy about the marbles though; Greece wants them back, even though they were legally acquired by Lord Elgin from the Ottoman Empire when Greece was a part of that. I can see why Greece wants them back, but selfishly I'm glad they're in the British Museum 'cause I just got to go see them for FREE.

They had a neat video about the Parthenon which showed what one of the blocks probably looked like when it was whole, and a possible color scheme: they're pretty sure that the sculptures were originally painted as they were placed really high up in the Parthenon, so the paint would help them stand out so you could see what was depicted. Most of the pieces show a religious procession or scenes from the Lapiths' war with the centaurs (which Lee says never happened because centaurs don't exist. I say it did happen and that centaurs *do* exist, and so do fairies). I think each of the sides had a different theme for the metope carvings, and the procession and the Centauromachy are the best preserved.

Fun fact: in its 2,500-year history (dude!), the Parthenon has been an Ancient Greek temple, a church, a mosque, and at some point was used to store gunpowder because a Venetian cannonball hit it in the 1600s and blew up part of the building. Which makes it amazing that this much of it still exists.

I think that these statues of the gods and goddesses were on the end of the temple (and if I get any of the information wrong, then I apologize). If I remember correctly, these figures are thought to be (from left to right) Persephone, Demeter and Iris.

These are thought to be Dione and Aphrodite. I've always been interested in Greek myth (rekindled recently by the Percy Jackson books, which are twelve kinds of fabulous) but I don't remember Dione at all; the museum information said she was Aphrodite's mother but I remember Aphrodite rising from the sea foam and thus having no mother. However, one important thing about Greek myth is that it's not one cohesive whole; each region or town had its own versions of major myths and a lot of myths are region-specific.

This giant horse sculpture was in one of the rooms near the Parthenon exhibit; in the next shot you can see how massive it is:

Near the Ancient Greek stuff on the main floor is an exhibit of Ancient Egyptian statuary and one of the British Museum's most famous pieces:

What, you don't know what that is? It's the Rosetta Stone! Ok really, for an object of such historical significance, it looks a big rock ;) The writing on it is pretty tiny. We couldn't get a real good close up view (much less a great picture of it) due to the crowds around it. The Ancient Egyptian exhibit seemed more popular than the Greek one; quite the crowd in there, and it was even more crowded when we went to the mummy exhibit on the second floor (sorry, no photos of that).

But here's a bit of Egyptian statuary: Ramses! (Whether it's Ramses or not, I'll call him Ramses, because other than King Tut I don't really remember any Egyptian kings...)

WaPOW!! Only I think we took this picture the wrong way since it's the statue's left arm, lol. Still, nobody does huge monuments and statuary quite like the Ancient Egyptians. 'Cept maybe the Assyrians; we saw a little bit of their exhibit and it was huge and impressive, but we didn't look through it all since Lee wanted to see mummies.

This is Thalia, the Muse of comedy; we saw her when we went up to the second floor in search of the mummies of which we took no pictures. After that, we hoofed it up a couple flights of stairs to the Japan exhibit, and saw a painting I really liked:

Really pretty, huh? This is called Swallowtails and it's by Saito Kaoru.

So that was our first visit to the British Museum. I would not at all mind going back a few more times; we only saw a tiny portion of the exhibits they have on display (seriously, this place is mind-boggling in its grandeur and the sheer number of objects on display). Next time though, I think we might go to the National Gallery to see some paintings (I seem to be on a museum kick) and maybe to one of the public gardens as I'm thinking that in May they'll probably be blooming beautifully.

I've got more photos to share over the next little bit too: Lee and I drove out today to see some more historical schtuff. But that's for another time, because after looking at all that Greek stuff, I am in the mood to watch Percy Jackson, or maybe the (original) Clash of the Titans. TTFN!


CCsMom said...

See, I'm with Lee. I think you'd make an AWESOME professor at a university, entertaining and informative. Wow, this museum really IS something. I love how the courtyard is -- the pictures almost look like a painting themselves. Can't wait to see this when we come -- put this on your list. I LOVE IT!!!

CCsMom said...

Oh, and wouldn't that Japanese painting make a gorgeous cross stitch project?!

Christy Lynn said...

I thought the same of the Japanese painting, which is why I had Lee take a picture of it and the note with the artist's name. So I tried Googling it and didn't come up with much...this blog post showed up twice!

Thoughts by B and M said...

I love the Japanese painting - it's awesome and would so look great in my house :) Love museums...when we come out there sometime, we'll have to visit a few! :)

Giffysk8s said...

I seriously think that museums are one of the best things on earth. LOVE being able to discover other cultures that i may never get to visit IRL.

I agree~you should either be a museum guide or write a travel book!