People watching in the Great Court

Just some ponderings about a recent visit to the BM

I had an hour or so to kill the other day while I was down in London doing some fieldwork, so I thought I'd call by the British Museum to see if there was a chance of seeing the first emperor exhibition. Although to be honest I was kind of hoping that I wouldn't be able to! - It's one of those exhibitions I feel morally like I should see... but am not sure why exactly! Maybe someone out there (Amy perhaps?) could sell it to me!

Anyhow, I haven't been to the BM in ages and had a very heavy bag full of err... essential fieldwork materials.... (I hadn't just been shopping for dresses to wear to the series of weddings that seem to be happening this year...honest!), so when I got into the Great Court I just decided to sit and observe what was going on around me. I have to say that this was fascinating! I used to go there for a bit of time out every now and then as a student in London, but had forgotten just how interesting it is to watch what people do in that space. So many little stories going on all around you!

I watched a French family with a very enthusiastic dad and less than enthusiastic child, who was made to stand next to the monumental lion statue from Kindos for a photo (
It's funny that when the camera was pointed her way she did the obligatory photo performance, you know the one, the cheesy smile etc - despite her original protests. You can imagine the scene: 'Dad...why do I have to go and stand in front of that stupid lion for another photo? You’ve already got me in front of the marble statue of a youth on horseback, the black siltstone obelisk of Nectanebo II and the Head of Amenhote' It got me thinking though about the biography of that lion, once placed at the top of a huge funerary monument in Asia Minor, and now the backdrop for countless obligatory photograph performances! I wonder what it would say if it could speak? And I wonder what, in years to come, that photo will mean to that girl and her family?


Amy said…
You know, this reminds me of the first time I visited the Great Court, the day after its official opening. People were just standing around gazing at the ceiling - it seemed so light and bright! In the space of a few seconds, the British Museum went from being my most hated (remember when they were doing all the building work? It was like a maze), to most loved museum. It really is a fantastic social space. I really enjoy people watching there as well. Did a bit of that the day I went to the First Emperor exhibition (I never did get around to that promised review!). Btw, the exhibition is well worth a visit, regardless of how you feel about China. Hell, this is *world* history!
Anna said…
Yes I remember the British Museum when it was a maze! It took ages to get anywhere!We had tutorials in some of the roman & greek galleries and I was always late! Where is that first emperor review then? (no pressure or anything!)
Ceri said…
In my opinion it is still very much like a maze! It has taken me several visits to find where I want to go and see the objects I want to see but still my abiding memory is wandering around rooms and rooms full of pots!
Anna said…
Yes rooms of pots! There are a couple of rooms in the basement that I haven't been able to go in since I was about 11! - they always seem to be shut.
Amy said…
Hmmm - I think for the moment for my review of the First Emperor exhibition has probably passed. Sorry!

I don't remember seeing rooms of pots - I guess I just stick to the Joseph Hotung Gallery and the Great Court book shop when I visit. ;)
Ceri said…
oh amy you are really missing out! See AA Milne was on to something when he described how Eeyore was happiest when he had his pot and bit of balloon to put in the pot. Foundations of capitalism in a nutshell :D

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