Day 14: British Museum

The British Museum

The British Museum

Can you tell I'm excited?

Can you tell I’m excited?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting the British Museum was different than expected because I expected it to be more like visiting the Archaeological Archives and instead we visited the central archives where they keep the records of the items they have and those that use the reading room. There are very few artifacts in the archive other than papers and photographs and items like that, most papers have to do with administration aspects of the museum. Such as the Book of Presents, the book that details the gifts that have been given to the museum, the artifacts and such that they did not have to pay for. However, there is one artifact in particular that was interesting. The museum still has the bomb that hit the museum during World War II, and because of that bomb many artifacts were damaged but many were also moved out to Wales in an effort to keep them safe. The archives are located within the air raid tunnels that run beneath the museum. The administrative archives stretch all the way back to 1738 with the Sloan and Cottonian collections.

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The archives have records of each phase of the building, when it was built, how it was paid for, etc. The archives also contain records of excavations they have been part of, for example the excavation of Ur done with the University of Pennsylvania. This is where the logs from the reading room are archived as well. These can be interesting because visitors to the reading room are made to sign in and there are many famous signatures in these logs. Signatures from G.K. Chesterton, Bram Stoker, T.S. Eliot, Joseph Conrad, and Beatrix Potter to name a few. In the case of Bram Stoker the museum also retains his application to use to reading room, which consists not just of the application but also of letters of recommendation and a letter explaining why he would like to use the reading room. Users now do not have to go through quite that extensive of a process to use the reading room but back then it was more difficult to gain access.

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I think the thing that was of greatest interest to me was that there are still legal processes going on for Nazi looting claims. Our guide explained that these are lengthy and massive legal processes that are still constantly happening and there is even one going on right now. It is interesting to find that people and museums can still tell what items went missing then and can manage to locate them today. It is an interesting conflict and situation and I think it would be really interesting to know the details and how these items are found and what the actual conflict is over them.

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British Museum

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