British Museum | Bloomsbury
Last Updated: 22nd May 2019 | Main image: Viktor Forgacs
The British Museum.
Thankfully, it’s not just about tea, weather, and maintaining uncomfortable positions during rush hour out of sheer awkwardness.
If anything, it’s the opposite: a globe-crossing, epoch-spanning collection of over 8 million fascinating cultural, scientific, and architectural artefacts – some up to 12,000 thousand years old – all housed within a beautiful complex seamlessly merging contemporary design with a grandiose, 19th century building.
It was founded in 1753 upon the death of Sir Hans Sloane, who bequeathed his own collection of 71,000 objects of interest – making it the first ever free public museum. Over the following years, the collection grew so rapidly that it’s since led to spin-offs in the form of the Natural History Museum and the British Library. Nowadays, it’s satisfied with merely charting the history of all human civilisation around the world, from Anglo-Saxon treasure to contemporary Guatemalan dance masks.
WHAT TO SEE
Entrance to the British Museum is still free, and there’s easily enough to keep you wandering round these glossy marble halls for hours. If you’ve got the time, there are free lunchtime talks and 20 minute gallery introductions (finally, you’ll be able to really get ancient Celtic metallurgy), but if you’re dashing through, they’ve also put together recommended highlight tours for you to follow.
The museum’s biggest hitters include rooms full of Ancient Egyptian mummies; the Rosetta Stone; Easter Island statues; the Lewis Chessmen and marbles from the Parthenon – as well as more obscure objects including treasures from a 27-foot burial ship found inside a grave; a 5,000 year-old royal board game from Ancient Mesopotamia; and a 16th century miniature mechanical galleon, designed to sail down a banquet table.
WHAT’S ON NOW
Besides the permanent collection, there’s also a steady flow of visiting exhibitions (which usually cost just under £20). These temporary galleries span everything from Japanese manga to Aztec gold, bringing together loan items from around the world as well as showcasing some of the British Museum’s own treasures.
Edvard Munch: Love and Angst | Until 21st July
Edvard Munch was a scream. He rejected his strict Lutheran upbringing to tour around Europe, mingling with bohemians, conducting passionate love affairs and creating some of the period’s most emotive Expressionist art. And now the British Museum is bringing together the largest collection of his prints for almost 50 years, in a huge retrospective of both his work and life… BOOK NOW
Manga | Until 26th August
Set to be the biggest ever manga display outside of Japan, this exhibition showcases around 130 different sketches, drawings, games and more taken from the unique graphic novel genre. There’s digital copies to download, a photo booth to ‘manga-fy’ your face, ‘cosplay’ costumes to try on, and – going right back to the art’s origins – a 17m curtain used in kabuki theatre with ghosts flying out of it. BOOK NOW
Head down on a Friday evening, and you can look around the visiting exhibitions – and the permanent collection – after hours (with cocktails and themed activities, of course). In fact, they’re pretty big on events in general – every day plays host to both free and ticketed Q&As, mini lectures, and hands-on workshops. Heck, you can even go all out and learn Latin.
NOTE: The British Museum is open every day, 10am-5.30pm (8.30pm on Fridays, except Good Friday). It’s free to enter, except for temporary exhibitions – you can book ahead for those HERE.
British Museum | Great Russell Street, WC1B 3DG
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