Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?
Please Support Us!
Donate with PayPal!
November Goal: $40.00
Due Date: Nov 30
Gross Amount: $25.00
PayPal Fees: $1.58
Net Balance: $23.42
Below Goal: $16.58

November Donations
7th Anonymous $20.00
5th Anonymous $5.00
Pages: [1]   Go Down
This topic has not yet been rated!
You have not rated this topic. Select a rating:
Author Topic: Great Museums of the World  (Read 511 times)
Description: The role of museums today
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
« on: April 20, 2007, 06:38:58 PM »

Let's begin with one close to home for me.

British Museum
Established 1753
Location Great Russell Street, London WC1, England
Visitor figures 4,600,000 (2005-2006) - Review Plan 2005/06
Collection size 13m objects
Museum area 13.5 acres/ 588,000 ft?/ 94 Galleries
Nearest tube station(s) Holborn, Tottenham Court Road, Russell Square, Goodge Street
Website www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk

The British Museum was established in 1753, largely based on the collections of the physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane. The museum first opened to the public on 15 January 1759 in Montagu House in Bloomsbury, on the site of the current museum building. Its expansion over the following two and a half centuries has resulted in the creation of several branch institutions, the first being the British Museum (Natural History) in South Kensington in 1887. Until 1997, when the current British Library building opened to the public, the British Museum was unique in that it housed both a national museum of antiquities and a national library in the same building. Since 2001 the director of the Museum has been Neil MacGregor.

As with all other national museums and art galleries in Britain, the Museum charges no admission fee, although charges are levied for some temporary special exhibitions.

The Museum today
The Museum was founded 250 years ago as an encyclopedia of nature and of art. Today it no longer houses collections of natural history, and the books and manuscripts it once held now form part of the independent British Library. The Museum nevertheless preserves its universality in its collections of artefacts representing the cultures of the world, ancient and modern. The original 1753 collection has grown to over thirteen million objects at the British Museum, 70 million at the Natural History Museum and 150 million at the British Library. These collections continue to increase.

The Round Reading Room which was designed by the architect Sydney Smirke and opened in 1857. For almost 150 years researchers came here to consult the Museum's vast library. The Reading Room closed in 1997 when the national library (the British Library) moved to a new building at St Pancras. Today it has been transformed into the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Centre. This contains the Paul Hamlyn Library of books about the Museum's collections, which is open to all visitors.[citation needed]

With the bookstacks in the central courtyard of the museum now empty, the process of demolition for Lord Foster's glass-roofed Great Court could begin. The Great Court, opened in 2000, while undoubtedly improving circulation around the museum, was criticised for having a lack of exhibition space at a time when the museum was in serious financial difficulties and many galleries were closed to the public. At the same time the African and Oceanic collections that had been temporarily housed in Burlington House were given a new gallery in the North Wing funded by the Sainsbury family

The Learning and Information Department
Compass: Collections Online
Current Exhibitions
Events Calendar
Special Events
Touring Exhibitions
Workshops and Courses
Scientific Research

The Museum holds some 350,000 books, offprints, pamphlets and many periodical publications, in libraries spread around the buildings, including the Paul Hamlyn Library, the Museum's Central Library and in many curatorial and departmental libraries. The Museum Archives document the history of the Museum and are designated as public records.

The Paul Hamlyn Library, the public reference library adjacent to Room 2, is open to everyone who visits the Museum. Funded by The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the library aims to help visitors find out more about the Museum's collections and the cultures represented here. The subject-matter is very wide-ranging, including archaeology, history, art, architecture and much more, and there is a substantial and developing children's section. The online catalogue can be consulted at terminals in the library. The library is still growing - some 15,000 of a planned 20-25,000 books have been acquired so far. Photocopying facilities are available. Books may not be borrowed from the Library but are always available for reference during opening hours.

The Central Library is the general reference library for museum staff, and members of the public by special arrangement. It must be noted that access to the public is restricted and the library operates as a 'library of last resort'. Started some 20 years ago, it provides books and journals on a wide range of subjects, such as museology and collecting, and scholarly reference works of interest to curators throughout the Museum. The library is particularly strong on the history of the British Museum and holds a copy of every BM publication. There is also a collection of British Museum posters and postcards.

The Central Archive of the British Museum contains the administrative records of the Museum dating back to its foundation in 1753. They are records created by the Museum and which have been selected for permanent preservation. The archive includes minutes of meetings of the Museum?s Trustees, departmental reports on acquisitions and administration, policy and financial records.

The Central Archive holds limited information on the Museum?s collections: these records are generally held by the Museum?s curatorial departments (with some exceptions). For archival enquiries about Museum objects you should therefore initially contact the relevant department.

Archive material held by the British Museum Department of Manuscripts (usually with references beginning ?Add?) and some other Museum records (before 1973) are now held by the British Library. Central Government records concerning the administration of the Museum, including various records of the Museum building, are held by the National Archives.

Access to the Museum's Archives is via the Paul Hamlyn Library (opening hours see above) by appointment. Please contact the Museum Archivist Stephanie Clarke on 0207 323 8224; email
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2007, 06:56:29 PM »

The British Museum was the inspiration, I believe, for the Library of Trantor in the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimiov. In these tales, the museum is the repository of all knowledge and is instrumental in restarting human civilisation after a long 'dark age'.

Asimov was one of my favourite authors and I found this series, along with his Robot series, most enchanting.

Baja Bush Pilot
Silver Member

Karma: 35

Posts: 165

View Profile WWW
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2007, 10:49:44 PM »


Are there any exhibits in the museum that you have a personal connection to or a special fascination for?


« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2007, 12:19:24 AM »


Are there any exhibits in the museum that you have a personal connection to or a special fascination for?
Thank you for asking.

The maternal grandfather of my first wife was a missionary in China. He was based in the old imperial capital of Sian, which he saved from sacking by converting the bandit chieftan. He discovered many of the sites which are now famous.

He brought many artefacts back to England for safekeeping. Half went to the British Museum and most of the remainder were destroyed by German bombing during the Second World War. So much for safety.

I was a patron of the museum for some years. It was enjoyable having special access and there was also the annual dinner with HRH the Princess Royal.

Just wandering the galleries is a major experience. On one of my walkabouts decades ago, I discovered the museum's stamp collections and they are staggering in scope; now they are part of the British Library.

I really enjoy using the audio guide to study the Elgin Marbles. Though this may make me no friends, I consider Lord Elgin a hero for his rescue of them from war and imminent destruction.

The exhibits that impress me greatly are those of Mesopotamia.

Nimrud Palace Reliefs

This room is dominated by two stone sculptures of mythological guardian figures. The first is of a colossal winged human-headed bull which would have been placed at one of the entrances to the Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud. The other is a guardian figure in the form of a gigantic standing lion which once stood at the entrance to the Temple of Ishtar, adjoining the Northwest Palace. The room also contains reliefs from the Central Palace of Tiglath-pileser III, also from Nimrud.

I think we are very lucky to have a place where we can just walk around these historic sculptures. Doubly so when one considers Iraq today.

I haven't tried to keep track of artefacts with which I was concerned. It was only a few weeks ago, for example, that those of Chilton Farm were taken away and I haven't tried to see them. I don't know why, but I just accept that when they leave the ground, they are not mine and that they go to some special place.

Since I started this site, I have tried to think of what went where, but I am not sure. I didn't make even a mental note at the time. Whichever museum was closest, I suppose. Though the Treasure Act did not apply to most finds, a museum is the best home and if I could avoid the reward system, I would. As Doc can tell you, I work at being free of encumberances.

Platinum Member

Karma: 143

Posts: 1768

View Profile
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2007, 05:30:36 AM »


   One of the most oft repeated complaints that I hear against US museums is that only 5% of the artifacts they have are on public display. This is our heritage, the people's heritage, which they are stewards of, why don't they display more of the artifacts?

- Bart

Learning is a treasure which accompanies its owner everywhere.
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2007, 01:16:55 AM »


I see the primary job of a museum as conservation and study. Conservation is obvious: staff have a duty of care to preserve our heritage.

Less obvious is that artefacts are available for study and through publication of the resultant data this knowledge enters the public domain.

If museums did no more than that, their existence is worthwhile.

My own experiences in this regard have been fruitful. I contact museums all over the world regularly, requesting expert advice. Their responses have always been positive and I have never been either asked to justify myself, or asked to pay.

Many artefacts are suitable only for study and not for display. For example, Chilton Charlie (from our Dover dig) is now in Dover museum and no point would be served having an array of Saxon skeletal remains on display - one would suffice. The specialist, though, may learn much from studying the whole array of remains.

Same with the knife we found on his midriff. There is nothing special about it, except that it indicates the status of the Saxon. It need not go on display, but it does need to be studied in the proper context of the burial.

This is true for very many artefacts: though only one is needed for display, the number of them on a site, or in a region, can be significant.

Museums have purposes besides conservation. Education, for example. Public lectures, workshops, courses and publishing are all important roles.

Personally, I rarely take much notice of displays. I find them static and being unable to examine them closely, or get a detailed explanation of them, rather boring. I do better reading a book, or watching a documentary.

Even so, displays can be rotated, enabling all artefacts to have their moment of glory. Displays are also often out on tour and artefacts lent to become part of a display elsewhere.

If we didn't have museums, we'd have to invent them.

« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2007, 03:37:13 PM »

Vel�zquez not only provided the Prado with his own works, but his keen eye and sensibility was also responsible for bringing much of the museum's fine collection of Italian masters to Spain.

The Prado, Madrid

The Museo del Prado is a museum and art gallery located in Madrid; the capital of Spain. It features one of the world's finest collections of European art, from the 12th century through the early 19th century. Founded as a museum of paintings and sculpture, it also contains important collections of more than 5,000 drawings, 2,000 prints, 1,000 coins and medals, and almost 2,000 decorative objects and works of art. Sculpture is represented by more than 700 works and by a smaller number of sculptural fragments.

With over 8,600 paintings in the museum's collections, the museum's world class status is secured. The Prado has the world's finest collections of works by Spain's Diego Vel�zquez and Francisco Goya, as well as of Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch (a personal favorite of King Philip II of Spain). The museum has collections of El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Raphael, Titian, Bartolom� Est�ban Murillo. Fine examples of the works of Melozzo da Forl�, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Albrecht D�rer, Rembrandt, Veronese, Hans Baldung, Fra Angelico, van der Weyden and many other notable artists are on display in the museum.

The best known work on display at the museum is Las Meninas by Vel�zquez. Vel�zquez not only provided the Prado with his own works, but his keen eye and sensibility was also responsible for bringing much of the museum's fine collection of Italian masters to Spain.

Pablo Picasso's renowned work, Guernica, was exhibited in the Prado upon its return to Spain after the restoration of democracy, but was moved to the Museo Reina Sof�a in 1992 as part of a transfer of all works later than the early 19th Century to other buildings for space reasons.

The Museo del Prado is one of the buildings constructed during the reign of Charles III as part of a grandiose building scheme designed to bestow upon Madrid a monumental urban space. This "prado" (meaning meadow in Spanish) gave its name to the area (Sal�n del Prado, later Paseo del Prado), and later still to the museum itself upon nationalisation. Work on the building stopped between the conclusion of Charles III's reign and during the Peninsular War and was only initiated again during the reign of Charles III's grandson, Ferdinand VII. The structure was used as headquarters for the cavalry and a gunpowder-store for the Napoleonic troops based in Madrid during the War of Independence. Upon the deposition of Isabella II in 1868, the museum was nationalized and acquired the new name of Museo del Prado. The building housed the royal collection of arts and it rapidly proved too small. The first enlargement to the museum took place in 1918.
A war elephant from the church of San Baudelio de Berlanga, on display at the Romanesque chamber
A war elephant from the church of San Baudelio de Berlanga, on display at the Romanesque chamber

The most recent enlargement was the incorporation of two buildings (nearby but not adjacent) into the institutional structure of the museum. The Cas�n del Buen Retiro since 1971 houses the bulk of 19th century art. The Palacio de Villahermosa now houses the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, the bulk of whose collection was originally privately gathered and not part of the state collection, but which well serves to fill the gaps and weaknesses of the Prado's collection; the Thyssen Bornemisza has been controlled as part of the Prado system since 1985.

During the Spanish Civil War, upon the recommendation of the League of Nations, the museum staff removed 353 paintings, 168 drawings and the Dauphin's Treasure and sent the art to Valencia, then later to Girona and finally to Geneva. The art had to be returned across French territory in night trains to the museum upon the commencement of World War II.

Nearby Museo del Prado are two other national museums: the Museo Arqueol�gico houses some art of Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome formerly in the Prado Collection; the Museo Reina Sof�a houses 20th century artwork. Supplementing the Prado with these two museums, as well as the Buen Retiro and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (all within a short walk of each other).

History of Museo Nacional del Prado
Pages: [1]   Go Up

Jump to:  

Powered by SMF 1.1.4 | SMF © 2006-2007, Simple Machines LLC
History Hunters Worldwide Exodus | TinyPortal v0.9.8 © Bloc