Thursday, July 10, 2014

British Museum Archives

Today we visited the British Museum archives. The archives didn't look anything like what I expected. I was expecting a huge archive, instead, it was very small and compact. However, even though it was very small, they had temperature and humidity controls in place in order to protect the collection. The archive was very interesting to tour. The British Library actually has some of the collection, as they used to be in the same building. Primarily, most of the manuscripts in the collection are stored at the British Library. The British Museum opened in 1759. In the archive, they have all of the records for every year the museum has been open. They also have employee records and excavation records, especially excavations funded by the museum.

They also showed us one of the coolest things I've ever seen. They actually still have the shell of the bomb that hit the British Museum during the Blitz in World War II! We learned about methods they used to protect their collections during WWII. They moved the most valuable items to underground tube stations, so they would be protected. They also stacked sandbags around items that couldn't be moved. Less valuable items were put on display, so if they were lost it wouldn't be as devastating to the collection.
The bomb shell

A photo of the damage sustained in the Blitz

Our guide also told us that visitors in the early years of the museum had to apply in order to come in. The tours only lasted an hour, and visitors didn't get to see much. Since security was so tight, only 4-5000 people were allowed to visit the museum a year. Today, the museum gets 6.8 million visitors a year. 

Although it isn't open to the public, we got to see a sample of the records for the reading room. Our guide showed us where Bram Stoker had signed the reading room records. Other famous authors such as Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf had also signed the records. We were also able to see photographs of the reading room, which was completed in the mid 1800s. 

Bram Stoker's signature

After our tour, we were allowed to wander around the British Museum. Here, I was able to see the Rosetta Stone and one of the Easter Island statues. These were both major highlights of the trip. The museum was way too big to see all in one day! 

the Rosetta Stone

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