The British Museum
Checking out the famously preserved mummies at the world’s oldest public museum is on many London wish lists, but there’s much more to the British Museum than ancient Egypt. Other must-sees include the Elgin Marbles and the African masks, both part of an enormous collection that spans ancient Iran to modern Sweden. The Great Court, which was cleverly revamped with a geometric glass roof by Foster + Partners in 2000, is a spacious gathering area with a shop and a café—and a sight worth seeing in itself.
By Emily Mathieson, AFAR Contributor
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Beautiful Architectural Space in the Great Court
Architect Norman Foster's addition to the British Museum in London is a sight to see. His "Great Court" transformed a courtyard space into the largest covered public square in Europe when it opened in 2000. The space was previously used by the museum's library department and had not been open to the public for 150 years. At the center of the courtyard is the Reading Room, which was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. Also opened for the first time to the public in 2000, the Reading Room now houses a huge library and exhibition space. The glass and steel roof was designed and installed by computer, providing a high-tech juxtaposition against the classic stone architecture of the courtyard itself. Old and new, light and dark - your view of the Great Court was designed to continuously shift and change as you walk around the space. P.S. For fans of Norman Foster, be sure to check out the fascinating documentary, "How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?".
By Charissa Fay, AFAR Ambassador
I took this photo 1 year before going to Easter Island. At the time I had no idea how important this stolen statue is. The Moai statues were part of religious and political lives (Ancestor Cult) of the Rapa Nui people, their lives pretty much revolved around carving and displaying the statues. After some intense political change, they shifted their efforts to the Bird Man Cult, were a leader for the island was chosen after some physical competition - the production of Moai statues ceased. What makes this stoled Moai so important is that it was one of the last ones carved, as the Bird Man Cult replaced the Ancestor Cult. This particular one is said to have a carving on its back depicting the history and details of the Bird Man Cult - a one of a kind that unfortunately sits at the British Museum in London.
The centre of the museum was redeveloped in 2001 to become the Great Court, surrounding the original Reading Room.
By Jorge Garcia
No Animals Allowed?
As a lover of history, I must admit that I teared up a little bit upon walking into the British Museum. Seeing the Rosetta Stone, ancient sarcophagi, and other worldly treasures prompted me to take a ton of pictures. One of the photos stood out because of its uniqueness: mummified cats! The two wrapped cats on the top shelf looked almost cartoonish. The British Museum is absolutely amazing both in its own architecture and in its displays. Animal mummies were something I had never seen before. In some ways, however, I'm not so sure us modern humans are that far off in our own worship of animals. (Guilty!)
People-watching At The British Museum
The plaza and steps outside the British Museum are some of the most interesting places for people-watching. International tourists flock here to see famous artifacts such as the Rosetta Stone but if you're interested in a more unique experience, just enjoy the sight of hundreds of thousands of tourists coming and going.
By Adam Groffman, AFAR Local Expert
In my opinion, the British Museum is among the best in the world. It has the world's largest and most important collection of Mesopotamian antiquities outside Iraq. The best part is, the museum is free to all visitors.
By AFAR Traveler
The Long and Short of the British Museum
I’ll be the first to admit it: The last thing I want to do when exploring a city is spend too much time in a museum. But, if you’re in London for a short visit, and you pass up the British Museum, you’ll have missed out. For starters, there is something here to impress everyone. If you have a few hours, spend it wandering through exhibits that literally span thousands of years. But, if you walk through the museum’s stately columns knowing that you want to leave within the hour – trust me, I’m not here to judge – do one thing: See the Rosetta Stone.
By Kelly Dawson
British Museum London
The British Museum alone makes London a preferred tourist destination. The museum is home to various collections of paintings, sculptures, antiquities and many other curiosities. It is assumed that about seven million collection pieces are present in this museum for display. Get Highlights Of British Museum Guided Tour
Great Russell St, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG, UK
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