The museum is massive – over 90 rooms – and if you only have a few hours to spend you’ll have to accept that you’ll miss a great deal of it.
Much of the museum’s exhibits focus on the history of Britain, and the British Isles (which is a geographical, rather than political, term which includes Ireland and the Channel Islands), which you might expect given the name of the museum.
Some of the highlights of the museum’s exhibits include:
A mosaic from a church in Dorset. It’s a beautiful composition and is said to be the oldest representation of Jesus Christ’s face in the world.
The Lindow Man, a body of a man found preserved in a bog dating from 2000 years ago.
The Vindolanda Tablets, Roman writing tablets originating from a fort in Hadrian’s Wall. These tablets range from shopping lists to intelligence reports and give a fascinating look into daily life in the Roman Empire.
The Rosetta Stone. One of the most famous pieces of archaeology in the world today, the Rosetta Stone was found by Napoleon’s troops in Egypt and was the key to translating the heiroglyphics found in the Egyptian tombs.
Speaking of which, the Egyptian mummy collection is something else the British Museum is famous for, and for good reason. It’s probably the best collection of Egyptian mummies outside of Egypt.
The collections are so vast and wide-ranging that, whatever your interests, you’re bound to find something to interest you. Sculptures, mummies, drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, Native American totem poles, art from all the great cultures of the world: Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, Mayan, Aztec, Rome, Persia, Africa, Asia…
The bulk of the museum is completely free to explore but there are special exhibitions which cost money. Tickets for these can be bought there and then, or in advance, including through the Internet. Sometimes tickets sell out, so it’s best to book in advance if you can.
The current special exhibition is a collection of sculptures from West Africa, and past exhibitions have included China’s Terracotta Army, ‘Babylon: Myth and Reality’, and ‘Shah Abbas: the Remaking of Iran’.
If you’re in London for any time at all then you really should set aside some time to visit this cultural jewel. The building itself is almost as impressive as many of the exhibits!