I love the British Museum. It houses seven million objects documenting the story of human culture from its beginning to the present day.
Established in 1753, largely based on the collections of the physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane, the museum first opened to the public on 15 January 1759 in Montagu House in Bloomsbury, on the site of the current museum building. Its expansion over the following two and a half centuries has resulted in the creation of several branch institutions, the first being the British Museum (Natural History) in South Kensington in 1887.
When I’ve travelled to places like Egypt, Greece and Turkey, there is always a sense of guilt when the tour guides say, “and this particular beautiful thing is a copy, the original is in the British Museum.” Debates whether to repatriate those objects rage on. In the meantime, we have such a enviable collection of objects that tell stories about some of the most momentous periods in history.
By comparing between ages and objects you make inferences about how mankind’s beliefs and attitudes has changed.
My favourite objects in the British Museum are the:
Rosetta Stone – which is such an amazing icon of understanding. The work that went into decoding the script and the insights that then brought about Egyptian and Greek society is quite incredible.
Statue of the Pharaoh Ramesses II – I work in public relations and have a general interest in how leaders create and manipulate their own image for immediate political and personal reasons and to create legacy. This sculpture shows this process at work.
Elgin marbles – Some pieces from the Eglin marbles are incredibly beautiful. I love the horses in particular.
Tomb of Halikarnosos - The Mausoleum at Halikarnassos, designed by the sculptor-architects Pytheos and Satyros, was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Portland Vase - This is most famous cameo-glass vessel from antiquity.The scenes on the Portland Vase have been interpreted many times with a historical or a mythological slant. It is enough to say that the subject is clearly one of love and marriage with a mythological theme. I just can’t believe it was made so long along - perhaps from Rome, Italy, about AD 5-25 – and is so finely worked. No wonder it went on to inspire Josiah Wedgewood in the 18thcentury, one of our great ceramicists.