The British Museum

I went up  to the British Museum yesterday. My friend John suggested meeting up there, having first proposed a trip to Oxford, and I thought it was an awesome idea. Seeing Oxford again would have been lovely, but we’d left  it too  late. Getting there was easy enough – just two busses – and once I was in there I was instantly fascinated.  They currently have an exhibition on on Syria, so  there were many ancient stone tablets from the middle east on display.  The Rosetta stone, of course, took pride of place, but there were many more around it. I couldn’t help feeling, though, that it was all decontextualised: taken out of their original places and transported several thousand miles to a rainy city in northern  Europe, these objects inevitably lose some of their original meaning. Wouldn’t it be better to see these fascinating pieces of art where they were made? And isn’t having them in the british museum in the first place all essentially an act of imperialist theft? Then again, you might say it is  better to house these artefacts here, where they can be correctly preserved, than leaving them in the war-torn Middle East; and leaving them in the countries where they were created would mean people like me would never be able to see them. I couldn’t make up my mind  either way, and came  home vowing to go  back there to see more when I can.

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