January 28, 2016

A Night at the Museum

Everyone should visit the British Museum at least once in their life. Few places in the world can boast as many artifacts, from as many civilizations, spanning as many centuries, as this gem of history located in London.

Like many museums in London, the British Museum has no entry fee for the permanent exhibits, although a suggested donation of 3-5 euros per person is appreciated, particularly if you grab a museum map. And since the British Museum encompasses 990,000 square feet (that's 22 acres), you may actually need a map to find all the artifacts you want to see. Come prepared with a game plan or you'll leave exhausted!

Both my visits to the Museum have begun and ended with a few minutes in front of the Rosetta Stone. This famous lingual decoder was the key to ending the mystery of Egyptian hieroglyphs after its discovery in 1799, and I have an utter fascination with it. I get chills every time I get to view it in person and think about how just one artifact could bring about the understanding of an entire culture and written language.

Another personal favorite is the Sutton Hoo exhibit, the 20th century discovery of 6th and 7th century burial mounds in East Anglia, England. I first learned about Sutton Hoo in middle school when my mother assigned me to write a research paper on the topic. It is an unbelievable experience to stare history in the face after having studied and researched that particular topic from an early age. As my own heritage is Swedish, to which the Sutton Hoo burial possesses more than a few similarities with Swedish burials of the same era, it was all the more meaningful to look at the Sutton Hoo artifacts and other Viking-influenced Anglo-Saxon pieces in the exhibit.

Having explored Athens earlier this year, my September 2015 visit to the British Museum provided the perfect opportunity to view the sculptures and friezes taken from the Parthenon between 1801 and 1812. The marbles and statues are, in a word, amazing. These 2,000 year old pieces of history are in remarkable condition, although their current display in the British Museum leaves much to be desired as they blend in with the gray walls of the room. No two figures are alike, and the detail invested into each carving manifests the pride the artist took in creating these masterpieces.

These are just a few examples of what the British Museum has to offer, and yet it can easily represent several hours of your time viewing them. Be wise with your time and plan your trip in advance, knowing what specific artifacts or exhibits you'd like to view and taking advantage of the museum maps to find your way around.

What are your favorite exhibits at the British Museum?

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