The British Museum: Elgin Marbles, Cabinet of Curiosities, and Overwhelming Spaces

British Museum front facade

British Museum front facade

On the best day in London ever, I had a chance to visit the British Museum, which was a dream come true.  For years, I’ve read about the museum, longed to see the Elgin Marbles and Rosetta Stone, and I even used the museum in my dissertation as an example of the old paradigm of museums.

Old paradigm, indeed.

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In the entryway

I’ve recently come to realize that I just don’t love huge museums.  I didn’t really like the Met, I really didn’t like the Tate (next blog coming soon), and the Natural History Museum in NYC was just ok for me.  Why is this?  I’m a museum person! I’m still thinking it all out, but I think it might have to do with the exhaustion of vacation, the sheer size of the places, my feeling that I NEED to see everything, and the amount of people there.  Also, they seem like spaces for rich, old, white people most of the time.  It’s kind of like that feeling I get sometimes at big parties, where I’d rather talk to the wait staff.  Maybe I’ve just built them up so big for so many years that they couldn’t possibly live up to the hype in my mind.

Regardless, the British Museum was still impressive, and again, the Day of the Feels continued.

We walked up Drury Lane to Museum Lane, and rounded the corner to find the great British Museum.  I got really excited about what was going to come next – I mean, this is THE place!  Home of the Rosetta Stone, countless Egyptian and Middle Eastern artifacts, and bane of every museum professionals’ ethical and reasoning mind powers – the Elgin Marbles.  I had a bit of the vapors as we went in, saw the entrance, and walked through some of the Egyptian rooms – but the real feels didn’t come until…

EMOTIONS!

EMOTIONS!

We got to the room filled with the Elgin Marbles.  They were huge, and beautiful, and amazing… and I was so sad that here they were in the middle of London, instead of in Greece still on the Parthenon.  Of course, there are many pros and cons to this situation, which is why its a perfect Museums Studies class discussion.  But the current ethnic Greeks aren’t the same ones who are there now – but the Turks sold them to that British guy – but otherwise they would be destroyed – but but but – I really can’t decide what is right or wrong in this case.  All of that aside, they were astounding to see.

Elgin Marbles!

Elgin Marbles!

Charles dragged me along, I saw the Rosetta Stone and felt/got felt by a ton of people trying to do the same thing, and the rest of the museum is kind of a blur.  I remember seeing some goat mosaics, and the large library-esque room.

I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.

I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.

The British Museum also seemed a bit, like most huge museums, to be a Cabinet of Curiosities gone wild.  There is a hodge-podge of  anything and everything there.  Some of it was thrilling to see, and some of it seemed to be a testament to colonial conquests.

We saw all the things and stuff,  as you can see in the pictures below, but by the time we got to the more modern exhibit of watches and timepieces, I grabbed a small stool and sat in a hall while Charles explored some more.

Final thoughts – I am an expert spotter of goats, both in the wild, and especially in museums.

Also, I can’t decide if I have memory fatigue from that day because of the sheer size of the collection and space, or if it was because of the reasons raised in this fantastic article on the Huffington Post called “Why Taking Photos At Museums Is Hindering Your Memory. “When people rely on technology to remember for them — counting on the camera to record the event and thus not needing to attend to it fully themselves — it can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences,” Henkel explains in a description of the study.”

It was nice to get back into the fresh air as we walked on to the Richard II performance.  I’m still processing the whole visit to the British Museum, but I wouldn’t say I DIDN’T like it.  It was just a little overwhelming.  I also can’t say I’d particularly want to go back to it, either.

Hopefully someday, I’ll think some more about the visit and update this blog with more thoughts and feels…

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Helpful links and information

Since I’ve been on vacation the past week and am in the process of moving, this post will be rather short but hopefully informative and helpful!

I compiled this list  of links for museum professionals over the summer, and I hope it helps others out there like me!  This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but there is still some great information listed here.

If you have any comments or additions to the list, please comment or email me.

  1. CT Humanities Council
  2. Musematic – museums and technology
  3. National Trust Historic Sites – news, activities and ideas
  4. Preservation Nation
  5. Gozaic
  6. The Attic – The virtual home of the School of Museum Studies’ research students, University of Leicester, UK
  7. Electronic museum
  8. Global museum twitter
  9. Global museum on facebook
  10. Global museum
  11. Museum 2.0– Nina Simon’s blog
  12. Dan Zarrella – Social media specialist
  13. Museum Audience Insights
  14. Sustainable Museums Blog
  15. Archaeology, Museums, and Outreach
  16. Museum Employment Resource Center
  17. Museum Professionals.org
  18. Museum Market
  19. Museum Job Resources Online
  20. Mountain-Plains Museums Association – museums in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming
  21. Left Coast Presspublisher of academic and professional materials in the humanities, social sciences, and related professional discipline
  22. Musejobs on Yahoo
  23. TN Association of Museums
  24. American Association for State and Local History
  25. Association of Science – Technology Centers
  26. The Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums
  27. National Council on Public History
  28. Southeastern Museums Conference
  29. American Association of Museums
  30. AAM Professional Development
  31. University of Leicester Jobs Desk
  32. Smithsonian’s Museum Studies Resource Page – excellent!
  33. Museum Blogs
  34. Tenement Museum’s Blog – excellent examples of community involvement and participatory education
  35. MuseumsWiki
  36. Museum Blog Directory
  37. Museum Strategy – cultural communication
  38. The Uncatalogued Museum
  39. Museum Virtual Worlds
  40. Exhibit Files
  41. Museopunk
  42. Center for the Future of Museums
  43. National Park Service

Beginning the process…

Well, the time has come for me to launch my very own professional blog and website!

I realized that once I am no longer a temporary employee of the University of Memphis (next month), I won’t have the ability to host my portfolio on their network anymore.  Additionally, I have a lot to say about museums, public history, informal learning, and so many other topics that having a blog where I can express my ideas was the next logical step.

On this website, you will find information about my work in museums, historical organizations, the museum studies program at the University of Memphis as well as samples of my work from these institutions.

Please feel free to comment on my blogs or pages, and if you have any questions, you can email me at mkatestringer@gmail.com or through this webpage.

I plan to update regularly as my portfolio grows and as I learn more about public history as a PhD student at Middle Tennessee State University beginning this fall!

Happy Reading!