Tuesday, 18 December 2007

The Cabinet of Curiosities

I went to the British Museum on Friday, and I might go again tomorrow.

They've done up the King's Library recently, also known as Room 1, and it's really beautiful. They have a replica of the Rosetta Stone displayed as it originally was, so you can touch it (the real one is on the other side of the court, in a glass case), and the room is devoted to a magnificent exhibition on the Age of Enlightenment. If you want to see the Rondanini Faun, the jawbone of a Mastodon, lots of greek vases, and a bust of Sir Joseph Banks, this is the place to go.

There's also a new room where they put anything particularly interesting that has to be moved while they're refitting a gallery. It's always different. On Friday it was full of completely lunatic clocks (that one is more than five feet tall) and watches, ticking away, including one in the shape of a nef, beside a half-million-year-old handaxe, a fourteenth century English ewer that had been found in the tomb of an African king, and the Lewis Chessmen.

It's free. You can just walk in and look at all this stuff and have it explained to you, because the great collectors like Sir Hans Sloane and Richard Payne Knight, Charles Townley and Sir William Hamilton (the same one who was famous for his wife) collected all these things and tried the best they could to understand them. And then they gave the results to the nation, and ever since, it's just gone on.

You will spend money in the shop, though, and the bookshop, and the café.


raincitygirl said...

Hello Hedgie,
Loved reading about the British Museum. Lots of fond memories for me. The patterns of light and shade; the reading room with the names of the great scientists written in an off-hand manner as if to say of course he read here and he left his gum under the table too, what's it to you? The endless curiosities.

Love love

tangobaby said...

Thank you for being my eyes at my favorite museum in the world! And for providing all of these yummy links that I can peruse at my leisure. I remember being completely bowled over in the King's Library, especially. I loved seeing Lewis Carroll's manuscript with his little drawings.

*sigh* I so wanted to hide out and live in the British Museum. Can you arrange that for me?