The British Museum of London is world-renowned for its beautiful collection of artifacts, gleaned from the old British Empire’s many territories and conquests. The building itself is imposing as well: high ceilings, gleaming white stone, the famous Rotunda.
But, as my family and I were soon to find out, it can be a bit overwhelming.
It was a sunny London afternoon when we walked up the steps to the British Museum. The whole family was excited: my mom loved telling us stories of the treasures hidden behind the museum’s walls. Earlier that day we had visited Westminster Abbey and walked by Big Ben, and we were ready for a new adventure.
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As soon as we entered the building we grabbed a map and started planning our route. We decided to start in the Ancient Egyptian section and work our way through the Greek. We’d decide what to do next after that.
At first, the sight of the giant stone statues of sphinxes and pharaohs was breathtaking. My sister and I flitted around, gaping at the artifacts and taking pictures of them. Soon, though, we were numb to the works of art, walking and walking just to reach the Greek section. Our interest peaked at the famed Rosetta Stone, but it was hard to get a look (or a picture) because people were swarming around it, trying to take their own pictures.
We finally came to the end of the Egyptian art and walked through a hallway filled with Assyrian wall carvings. The carvings were gorgeous, but like with the stern Egyptian statues, by the end of the hall we had seen hundreds of them. The first sight of a Greek urn was novel and refreshing.
Thirty rooms later, not so much.
We were starting to learn. The British Empire must have taken practically every vase and statue and urn and wall carving that had ever existed in any nation they had ever occupied. And they were all here.
Nevertheless, we pressed on, though we were starting to tire. The Elgin Marbles, the nuanced and beautifully crafted carvings that once graced the Parthenon, were a high point. So was the thankfully small room of Mayan jade carvings. But by the time we had come to the ancient European section of the museum, we were exhausted.
My dad and sister, getting bored, branched off to look at mummies while my mom and I looked at Norse boats and gold-foil armor. Finally even she and I were ready to leave, and started to look for my dad and sister. So started a chase that went on for an hour, and by the time we were all reunited, we were swaying on our feet. We quickly bought a few postcards and made our retreat, thoroughly beaten by the massive museum.
The British Museum was an ordeal for my family, but it was also a breathtaking look at the world’s most prized cultural treasures. To start planning your trip, use http://www.britishmuseum.org; it’s got a lot of great information and some really cool articles to boot. As for my tips: if you go, stay together or take cell phones, plan to go through only the exhibits that are must sees, take your camera, and if you want to see everything, then break up one visit into multiple visits.
There are a lot more Greek urns than you’d think.
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