Thursday, July 8, 2010

The British Museum

The British Museum is an awe inspiring, massive building.  They currently have a South Africa Landscape Kew outside, perhaps to acknowledge the World Cup in South Africa. We could only go in groups of 7 to the archives since it is a small vault. I was slated for the 2nd group and had time to see a few exhibits first. I went to the Enlightenment Room. There were many books in the mezzentine that surrounded the room. There was a mixture of artifacts like buddhas, cunniform clay tablets, shells, astrological instruments amongst other things. A copy of the Rosetta stone was also in this room and you were encourage to touch it. In the Life and Death exhibit, there was this net of pills to illustrate that something that small can save the life of people.  Many people in poor countries die without basic medications and treatments that we are privillaged to have. In a corner of this exhibit, was the crystal skull bought from Tiffany and Co. by the museum. It's rumored to have been left by anceint people as part of a library of knowledge to prevent the end of the world.

In the British Museum's basement, after a maze of tunnels, lies the archive. This central archive managed by Stephaine Clarke, their only archivist.  The collections are divided up into 8 departments and each of that is separated into 6 record series. To retrieve detailed information, it appears not to be computerized.  They need to consult indexes, original papers book, book of presents, and letter books. Also there are time periods where one method was used for a while, keeping letters in the original papers book, then changing to keeping the letters with the book of presents. One has to keep mind of when things happened to change and know where to find them.  Inside this archive are the library lending cards and the patron's information and signitures.  We were shown Karl Marx's signiture and T. S. Elliot's signiture and lending card. We were shown pictures of the museum after the WW II bombings and a blown shell that was recoved on the site. Not sure on how one would write the provenance to that or really wanted that 'gift'.

After the archives and lunch, I poked around quickly thru the exhibits. I went to Egypt, Japan, China prints, Asia exhibits. I didn't stay long since my legs began to hurt again. I found myself in Chinatown having accupuncture for the first time and it was amazing and scarey. I don't like needles.

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