British Museum revisited after 20 years
After sending my daughter to school, I enjoyed spending time with my wife. When I opened Google Maps on my phone, there was a cafe with very good reviews in the corner right in front of the primary school. We walked into the cafe to enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice of bread.
It’s still 9 am, and on the street looking out the window of the cafe, many people rush to their schools and workplaces. Watching them, we talked about where our next destination would be. After a short discussion, we decided to head to the British Museum. As I said before, visiting the British Museum is the most anticipated part of my life in London.
Actually, I’ve been to the British Museum once 20 years ago. A lot has changed as time has passed. At that time, I was relying on a sheet of paper map and fumbling around looking at nearby objects, but now I can find it all at once by looking at the Google Maps on my phone. It’s convenient, but it’s rather bland at times.
After leaving the cafe and walking for about 10 minutes, the British Museum, a huge building with a different atmosphere from other buildings, appeared in front of us. However, I was not able to enter the building yet, and had to walk to the entrance along a long fence. As I walked a little further, I could see that it was the front of the building and, not surprisingly, I could see people waiting in advance of the entrance time. I checked the clock and it was 9:30 am, and there were still 30 minutes until the opening time of the British Museum. Some people were allowed to enter, but it turned out they were museum staff.
At exactly 10 am, the admission of visitors began. However, the appearance of the British Museum after 20 years was quite shocking. Because it was very different from the appearance of the British Museum that I remember. Perhaps due to the impact of COVID-19, there were so few people that it was unbelievable that it was a world-class museum. Only mobile barricades, once necessary to guide visitors, remained.
When we enter the British Museum, we see a completely different space from the outside. As soon as we enter the entrance to the British Museum, we are greeted by the Great Court, the largest indoor square in Europe. Built as part of the City of London Millennium Project to commemorate the year 2000 AD, it is one of the designs by British high-tech architect Norman Foster along with London City Hall and the Millennium Bridge. In particular, the round-shaped facility seen in the center is the reading room of the library, which is also a historical site where Karl Marx wrote .
For those who visited unprepared like us, the British Museum has compiled a recommended 3-hour tour course on its website. We decided to follow the instructions on the homepage, saying, “Yes, we will do this today.”
The first place the recommended course was guided to was the Egyptian Room. It’s ironic that the UK’s best museums want to show their visitors the Egyptian exhibits. It is true that the history of Western civilization eventually touches the Egyptian civilization, but as many people already know, the process that brought so many Egyptian exhibits to the British Museum is not so beautiful.
Next to the Egyptian artifacts were exhibits from another ancient civilization, Assyria. Lamassu, the patron statue of Sargon II, guarding the gates of Khorsabad Palace. And when we moved to another room, we were able to see the Moai stone statue ‘Hoa Hakananai’a’ brought from Easter Island. All of them are precious treasures that can only be seen here.
And opposite the place where the relics brought from abroad were gathered, there was a space called the Enlightment Room that showed the process until the establishment of the British Museum. A brief overview of the history of the British Museum, organized here, is that the British Museum was initially established in 1753 as the private collection of Sir Hans Sloane, an Irish physician. Then, on January 15, 1759, it was set up at the Montagu House and opened to the public, which is now the British Museum. The British Museum’s historic Enlightment Room preserves the appearance of the original Montague House.
Looking around the ‘Enlightment Room’ for about 30 minutes, I was able to understand what modern English people want to say. As you can see, much of the 8 million pieces of cultural property that the British Museum holds are those obtained through robbery and looting. For that reason, there is also a mocking joke that “the only real British thing in the British Museum is the building and the guards.” Even English people are not unaware of such criticism. So they seemed to want to show that their ancestors tried to systematically classify and preserve the world’s cultural heritage.
There may be different views on this. However, I think the efforts of the English people to create and maintain this great museum deserve to be respected as it is. Results may not justify the process, but if we want to reap the benefits of results, we will also need to embrace the process.
Visit the London Eye
After a 3-hour quick tour at the British Museum, it was time for my daughter to finish school. We headed straight to our daughter’s school. When my daughter saw me, she said, “London Eye! London Eye!” I don’t know why, but it seems my wife has promised to go to the London Eye. I honestly wanted to go home and get some rest, but I couldn’t break the promise we made with our daughter.
The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the Thames. It is also called the Millennium Wheel because it was built to commemorate the year 2000. Today, it has become one of London’s leading tourist destinations, visited by 3 million people each year. As it was built by the river, the surrounding area is well maintained like a park. The weather was nice, so many people went out for a picnic.
The London Eye is a bit cheaper to book online, but it is also expensive online, at £31 for adults and £27.5 for children. If I booked a week in advance, it’s cheaper at £24.5 for adults and £22 for children. But anyway, what my wife promised was to go today, so I boldly finished the payment. Almost £90 was gone in a flash.
But all the way to the London Eye, there was something I was more worried about than money. Actually, I have acrophobia. Still, the thing that scares me more than high places is regretting later, so I thought that I should not regret coming this far. Eventually, I got on the super-large Ferris wheel that reached a maximum height of 135 m. But after the Ferris wheel was closed, I couldn’t stop thinking that it would be better not to ride and regret it. I kept repeating in my mind that the 30-minute ride on the London Eye went by quickly.
Still, I felt proud of myself for one thing. Because even in the midst of a hardship, as a father and husband, I faithfully fulfilled the most important role when visiting tourist destinations: taking pictures. So I end today’s post with a video I took on the London Eye.
(Next post will be updated soon.)