Tuesday, July 13, 2010

British Museum-07/07/10

This was another great day! Our group split up into smaller sections for our tour of the archives, so we began by checking out the museum. There is so much in the museum, it was hard to choose what best to look at and be sure not to miss. The Rosetta Stone was a necessity and was close to the front of the museum (see picture above--image available from http://www.uncg.edu/ ). There were so many people trying to get pictures of it, a little bit tricky to maneuver through the area (worse than getting at the Mona Lisa, Kate). The stone is marked with an inscription dated 196 BCE. It was rediscovered in 1799 during a French expedition to Egypt.

The British Museum was established in 1753 , beginning with the 71,000 objects collected by Sir Hans Sloane. Items in the collection included books and manuscripts, prints and drawings, and some antiquities including coins and medals, and natural history collections that have since been moved to create the Natural History Museum. The original site was at Montague House, a 17th Century Mansion, but this was eventually replaced by the new building which now stands. I was able to view several exhibits and items including: Egyptian sarcophogi mummies, Mayan bloodletting, the Enlightenment Room, and a very old copy of a Chinese scroll that is apparently the oldest landscape scene in existance, the original copy no longer exists. The mountain scene on it reminds me of a picture on one of my books on writing (Cameron), I will have to compare the pictures.

The tour of the archives was very interesting and covered the history of the museum itself. There are archival materials for governance, staff, finance, exhibitions, and reading room records. I saw photographs taken by photographer Roger Fenton, including pictures of damage to the museum during WWII and saw a shell (very large) that had landed in the building (see http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/fenton/exhibition.shtm for more information on Fenton). I also got to see some very old photographs of zoological objects. The pictures remain at the British Museum but the actual objects are at the Natural History Museum.

The highlight for me would have to have been seeing the records of writer T.S. Eliot that are in the archive. "Readers" to the collections had to have references and an application approved before they could use the resources at the museum. The archive has his original request for a reading card, a very formal letter; his index card, #B7009; and signature.

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