The British Museum is awe-inspiring, inspirational and slightly bizarre.
Please don’t misunderstand, I love the British Museum. I walked around the complex with my mouth hanging open and my eyes open wide.
The Rosetta Stone was impressive, not only because it is the key to understanding Egyptian, but also because of the craftsmanship. Those letters are tiny! And there are not just Egyptian artifacts, but also instruments from Mesopotamia, statues from Rome, jewelry from Mexico, carvings from Africa, pottery from China and many other worldwide treasures.
But two things stuck me as odd.
First, there was almost no security. No one checked my bag and many items are not behind protective glass. It would be an easy site for a terrorist attack and even easier for a clumsy person to wreck thousands of years of history.
Second, why is all this stuff here? Why isn’t the Rosetta Stone in Egypt or the Parthenon friezes in Greece?
Well, I actually know the reason. It’s because these treasures were placed in the British Museum during a time of British Imperialism.
But why are nations’ heritages still in the British Museum today?
Some people I’ve spoken to say it’s to keep them safe, that a lot of the owners of these artifacts are third world or unstable countries. To these people, the museum is a safekeeping vault.
And I understand their logic. But at the same time, there’s something not right when I look at a frieze of a headless centaur attacking a young warrior and the sign next to it reads:
This frieze would have been in the Parthenon. The centaur’s head is currently in the Greek Museum.
When art is not allowed to be complete, there is definitely a problem.