"Of all the objects I’ve worked with in my eight years as an interpretation officer at the British Museum, the Sudanese lyre is perhaps the most intriguing. Made in northern Sudan, probably in the late 19th century, it would have been played by a male musician at weddings and harvest festivals as part of a small band. ... Just as fascinating as the actual instrument are the coins, beads, shells and, as yet, unidentified objects that are attached to the lyre. In a sense, the Sudanese lyre is both a single object and an assemblage of many objects each with their own story to tell."
In the mid-1800s, a snail spent years glued to a specimen card in the British Museum (now the Natural History Museum) before scientists realized it was still alive. What became of this snail? Ask Metafilter found out! [more inside]
The British Museum has published on its frequently informative blog a call for citizen archaeologists to help digitize its Bronze Age Index via a crowd-sourcing site called MicroPasts, which uses the open source PyBossa crowd-sourcing framework that also powers Crowdcrafting. The results will eventually be integrated with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (previously), which features a gigantic image database of finds categorized by period (e.g. Bronze Age or Medieval) and object type (e.g. coins or brooches).
Between 1922 and 1934 archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania and the British Museum embarked on a large scale excavation of the Mesopotamian city of Ur, one of the world's earliest cities. That excavation generated a huge mass of documents (lettres, field notes, dig report etc.) and now you can help to digitally transcribe them.
"A History of the World in 100 Objects" was a joint project between BBC Radio 4 and the British Museum that aired in the first part of 2010 (covered here previously). The show takes on the history of human civilization through 100 objects collected by the British Museum. [more inside]
Here comes Alan Measles - WW2 hero turned benign dictator turned Godhead. Guru, muse, art critic, raconteur. In his capacity as minor deity he resides in a hand-tooled Louis Vuitton traveling shrine, and embarks on a pilgrimage to Bavaria to make peace with the Germans, in his custom-built personal conveyance. In his entourage are his devoted minion and bodyguard, and some other bloke named Alan. In London this weekend? Pay your respects to Alan's stunt-doubles in the Kenilworth AM1, and purchase Measles memorabilia from the gift shop. [more inside]
In 1772, at the age of 73, Mrs. Mary Delany invented a new way of depicting flowers: with hundreds of small pieces of paper carefully cut out and placed. This method - which she called "paper mosaicks" and which later became known as (paper) collage - enchanted her friend Lady Portland, King George III and his queen, and natural historians, artists, collectors, and friends alike. They look like botanical paintings, but are constructed out of paper. Browse the British Museum's collection. [more inside]
MAN is one of a number of animals that make things, but man is the only one that depends for its very survival on the things he has made. That simple observation is the starting point for an ambitious history programme that the BBC will begin broadcasting on January 18th in which it aims to tell a history of the world through 100 objects in the British Museum (BM). A joint venture four years in the making between the BM and the BBC, the series features 100 15-minute radio broadcasts, a separate 13 episodes in which children visit the museum at night and try to unlock its mysteries, a BBC World Service package of tailored omnibus editions for broadcasting around the world and an interactive digital programme involving 350 museums in Britain which will be available free over the internet. The presenter is Neil MacGregor, the BM’s director, who has moved from the study of art to the contemplation of things. “Objects take you into the thought world of the past,” he says. “When you think about the skills required to make something you begin to think about the brain that made it.” via The Economist [more inside]
The Tibet Album: British photography in Central Tibet 1920 - 1950 [previously] via The Best of The Asian Studies WWW Monitor [more inside]
In the summer of 1897, the Devil transported a minor Decadent poet named Enoch Soames one hundred years into the future to see what posterity would make of his work. The only witness to the affair was the parodist Max Beerbohm, whose account of Soames and his journey ensured that at 2:10 P.M. on June 7, 1997, some dozen pilgrims waited in the Round Reading Room of the British Museum to see the poet appear...
The British Museum has put together a beautiful interactive display system they call "Turning the Pages" for some of the rarest books in their collection, including the Sherborne Missal. The technology has been developed to realistically replicate the physical act of turning the pages of each individual book.
How far should the commercialisation of fine art go? The British Museum has licensed an on-line company atelier 350 to sell reproductions of some of the drawings in their collection. This article argues that the sales description is misleading and if replicated on a wider scale could harm the general public's perception of access to the collections in the long run. I agree that museums have to raise funds somehow and I'm not against the selling of some of the more popular images, however, surely their first responsibility must be to educate not to distort or hide the truth in the way which is shown here.
In search of the real Cleopatra: an exhaustive collection of artifacts exploring the history and the myth of the Queen of the Nile is currently on display at the British Museum. It will run through August 26. (The exhibition will travel state side and be at the Field Museum in Chicago from October 20 through March 3, 2002.)
"The marbles belong to the British Museum ... which does not intend to return any part of the collection to its country of origin," PM Tony Blair ruling out the return to Greece of the so-called "Elgin" marbles, the stone carvings that were unceremoniously hacked off the Parthenon by the Earl of Elgin and carted back to Britain. Nearly 200 years later and despite years of Greek protest, the British Museum is not budging and has maintained thoughout that it has been protecting these antiquities from almost certain destruction (although their own record in this regard has not been great). Should museums today be returning treasures that have were obtained though such looting?