Monday was a pleasantly surprising day. We started off with another class meeting, where we reflected on our visit to the V&A last week. I didn’t care much for that museum so I didn’t put as much effort into my writing as I probably should have, but you can read it here.
I did love the museum we went to after class yesterday, though: the British Museum.
But hold up for a second. I just want to bring up the fact that Starbucks here has a “jelly coffee” drink that I’m pretty sure you can’t find in the States, and I totally tried it during our lunch break. It was a normal caramel frappuccino with chunks of jelly (more like the consistency of Jell-O) at the bottom. It was weird.
Anyway. The British Museum. When I say I loved it, I mean I LOVED it. I don’t know why, but I felt way more interested in the exhibits and displays, and questions galore sprung up in my head as I wandered around. It was a bit crowded, especially around the popular items like the Rosetta Stone and the mummies. If I lived in London, I would visit this museum often. There were so many rooms, so many things to see, I know I didn’t go through everything. Even my professor, who’s gone several times already, said there are rooms he’s never been in before. It’s just massive and full of history from around the world.
Maybe that idea is part of the reason I enjoyed it so much. It is the British Museum, and yet, many of the items come from other parts of the world. Why does England have a right to roughly half of the Parthenon ruins, for example? They claim it’s for conservation efforts, that Greece is too politically unstable to be trusted with them. This is a similar argument made for many other displays. It was fascinating to walk around these sculptures and think about culture and heritage and rights to property.
Another thought I had came up in the Egyptian exhibits. These tombs and sculptures and things lay buried in Egypt for a really long time, without being disturbed by the locals… So what gave western archeologists the right to dig them up? Does history belong to everybody, or just the people of that area? How do you draw boarders around cultures? Around history? Why do we have a fascination with knowing about the past?
It’s evident, too, that we humans are kind of obsessed with ourselves. Images of the human face and body show up everywhere. But I thought it was interesting that animals were often depicted as well. I tried to get a sense of why certain animals were immortalized alongside their humans in these scultpures, carvings, paintings, and frescos. It seemed that either they were part of every day life, and thus couldn’t escape whatever picture the artist was creating (ex. horses in warfar or sheep in farmlife); they had a religious significance (ex. sacrifice); or they had some other symbolic meaning (ex. lion figures were made for protection on doors and gates).
Lastly, just before we left, I came across a bust of the Roman goddess Minerva. I don’t know why this little statue made such an impression on me, but I began thinking about what I knew about Greek and Roman dieties and what they were intended to represent. I just found it odd that Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, war, and beauty… three things that really don’t seem to go together. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if maybe they do. Is there, perhaps, wisdom and beauty in war? War and wisdom in beauty? Beauty and war in wisdom? Or are these 3 mental constructs of humans, since Athena/Minerva was said to be born out of a brain? Interesting things to think about.
After the museum, Faith and I worked out our schedule for the rest of the week, including where to get food. I decided to re-buy a Madame Tussaud’s ticket since that was something I really wanted to see, and there were times that fit into our schedule the next day. But that meant giving up on the Dungeons. When Faith goes later, I’m going to visit the Imperial War Museum instead.
That left us with nothing planned for the evening, so we went out exploring in Hyde Park. This was another favorite moment of mine on the trip. We went on a beautiful walk through a flower garden, spazzed out trying to swat flies away (and subsequently laughed hysterically at each other), and simply enjoyed the scenery.
We also saw the Peter Pan statue…
… walked through “Italian Fountains…”
… found this cute little cottage…
… peeked through some hedges to see a pet cemetery…
… and walked through Speaker’s Corner to finally end up by the Marble Arch.
There was so much more of the park we didn’t see, like the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, but what we did see was a gorgeous and relaxing break from the hustle, bustle, and smog of the City streets. We ended up walking most of the way back to our flat, as road construction took out the only buses going in that direction. I hate construction, in case you couldn’t tell. Also, smoking. Those are two things about this place I will not miss.
But I’m trying not to think about what I will and won’t miss, because that means thinking about leaving, and with only four days left, that’s a really sad thought.