Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The British Museum - 7/21/09

On Tuesday July 21st, we went to the British Museum ( The British Museum is a human history and culture museum. Its collections include more than seven million objects and come from all the continents. It was established in 1753 and first opened to the public in 1759. The museum welcomes over Six million people every year. The museum is funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and charges no admission fee. The day we went was so crowded that I didn't get to really explore like I would have liked to.

Some of the museum's many treasures that I found interesting were a Granite head of Amenhotep III from 1350 BC, a bust of Ramesses II from 1250 BC, The Rosetta Stone from 196 BC, several Mummy's including that of Cleopatra from Thebes from 100AD and The Parthenon Gallery which houses some of the Parthenon Marbles.

The British Museum is a notable target for controversy, especially surrounding rare artifacts that are being claimed by their originating countries. Some of the most famous items that are disputed are:

* The Parthenon Marbles - claimed by Greece
* Benin Bronzes - claimed by Nigeria
* Ethiopian Tabots - claimed by Ethiopia
* Achaemenid empire gold and silver artifacts from the Oxus Treasure - claimed by Tajikistan
* Mold's Golden Cape - claimed by Wales
* Rosetta Stone - claimed by Egypt
* Aboriginal human remains - returned to Tasmania by the British museum.

The British Museum has refused to return these items declaring that the "restitutionist premise, that whatever was made in a country must return to an original geographical site, would empty both the British Museum and the other great museums of the world". They have also argued that the British Museum Act of 1963 legally prevents any object from leaving its collection once it has entered it. Nevertheless, it has returned items such as the Tasmanian Ashes after a 20 year long battle with Australia.

The British Museum does have a Library and Archives department, that unfortunately we were unable to visit. The library and archives department covers all levels of education, including casual visitors and schools. The Museum's many library holdings include approximately 350,000 books, journals and pamphlets covering all areas of the museum's collection. Also the general Museum archives are overseen by this department. The individual departments have their own separate archives. In 1997, the current British Library building opened to the public and split from the British Museum losing their beautiful Reading Room!

The British Museum
*Photo Courtesy of

The former British Library Reading Room at the British Museum
*Photo Courtesy of

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