21 January 2009

The British Museum and its Enlightenment Gallery

Monday, 12 January 2009

The British Museum exhibits treasures from the whole planet, so it's only fair that it's been "free to the world since 1753." We spent the better part of a day here, and here are some highlights:

  • Large remnants from the Parthenon in Athens, among the so-called Elgin Marbles.

  • A wonderful set of ivory chess pieces, from the 12th century A.D. These are the Lewis Chessmen and were found in Scotland, so the rest of the set is displayed in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, where we'll be for most of our time in the UK.

  • A large area called the Enlightenment Gallery (originally created to house the library of King George III). The room includes collections of all sorts, and is an apt illustration of Enlightenment thought and intellectual practice. One student, contemplating some particularly interesting fossils, announced an intention to become a geology major. (Paging Ralph Stearley.) The exhibit emphasized the Enlightenment emphasis on observation and experiment and presented the Enlightenment using seven main themes.

  • The Rosetta Stone.

  • Egyptian mummies, with results of scans showing their well-preserved body cavities.

  • A remarkable collection of timepieces of various types and ages.

Next: King's Cross Station, Platform 9 3/4, and our eventful journey to Scotland.

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