January 25th, 2011

never there

Museum Day!

Yesterday was another Members' Open Evening at the British Museum, so J took the day off & we headed into London for the afternoon & evening. Found yet another slightly different route to get to Cockfosters (A12/A414/M11/M25) on the way there, which was just as well as the A12/M25 junction was (unexpectedly to us) shut on the way home & I was able to just reverse the inward route rather than flap about & worry about how we were finding our way home :)

We spent the afternoon in the museum looking at a mix of things we've seen before & things we haven't. Mostly I was treating this visit as an opportunity to play with my new camera & take a bunch of photos, rather than looking at things to learn about them (tho there was some of that too). First we went to the African gallery to find the Benin plaques - which we haven't seen in the flesh before, but had seen a programme about early last year. It was somehow quite haunting seeing them in the flesh, which impression was helped by how empty that gallery was. And then back up the stairs and along to the temporary exhibition on Adornment & Identity: Jewellery & Costume from Oman. This was all fairly modern stuff (late 20th Century, mostly), and was more interesting than just the "ooh pretty" I'd sort of expected - tho I didn't really have many expectations as we only decided to have a look because we spotted the poster.

And obviously the "stuff we'd seen before" was Egyptian themed - starting in the Nubian room at the end of the Egyptian rooms. One of the things that I find most striking is how the later Nubians (later meaning c.600BC in this context) tried to be more Egyptian than the Egyptians. It was also nice to see the stela with Meroitic script on it having read about it last year :) And then down to the Egyptian sculpture gallery for a look around.

We had a brisk dinner at Wagamama's and then back for the evening's events. We'd decided to just go to one gallery talk this time because the lecture looked interesting - it was about the Book of the Dead exhibition, given by the exhibition curator John Taylor. So we got to the lecture theatre about 5 to 10 minutes before the lecture start time & discovered that loads of other people had had the same thought - the lecture theatre itself was full, and the overflow one (with video link) was nearly full so we were lucky to get seats at all. The lecture was interesting, although J said it didn't have anything that wasn't in the book of the exhibition (which I haven't read yet). One thing I really hadn't ever picked up on before was that the gates that are depicted in the Book of the Dead are analogous to the gates in temples - which would be guarded, and could only be passed through if you were worthy of it (and this worthiness was determined by knowledge).

The gallery talk we went to was also Egyptian themed - Behind the Scenes: Highlights from the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan's Archive & Library. This was a talk in two halves - first Susanne Woodhouse (the librarian) talked to us about the books the department has that are partly a history of Egyptology and partly a resource in themselves. So she showed us things like a selection of plates from Description de L'Égpyte which was the book published about the work done by the scholars who accompanied Napoleon's expedition to Egypt (the expedition that amongst many other things discovered the Rosetta Stone). And the second half was presented by Patricia Usick (the archivist) who showed us books (and things) that are more about the history of the museum's Egyptian etc collection. Among other things we saw one of the registration books for acquired objects from the 19th Century, and one of the catalogues done around that time.

And today I'm mostly tired, it was a fairly late night by the time we got home & even with J working from home it was an earlier start than I really wanted ;)