Free at the Museum

London Travel Blog

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British Museum on an autumn day ...

Free at the Museum

Of course, the British Museum isn’t exactly off the tourist track.  If anything it’s right at the centre.  But, what the average tourist, and even the average Londoner, may not know is that on almost every day there is a gallery talk by one of the Museum’s highly qualified staff and they are absolutely free.

I went to my first such talk some years ago.  I can’t remember the specifics now, but the central character was Alexander the Great. While I waited in the relevant gallery for the lecturer to arrive and got talking to some of my fellow group members I discovered that some of them were regulars.  “It’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon,” one elderly lady told me, and she went on to point out that for retired people living in London, who are fascinated by the world’s history and culture, what could be better than have some of the world’s leading experts share their knowledge with you.

Buddhist Monk ... China galleries ...

Of course, you don’t have to be retired and nor do you need to go often.  But, it’s certainly a great way to spend a few hours. I live just outside London these days so I combine such museum visits with other business in the capital, but since my original encounter with Alexander I’ve attended a number of gallery talks.  Among other things I’ve learned about Chinese porcelain, about West African masquerades, and about medieval astrolabes.   Today I learned something about Gods, mortals and kings, as depicted in ancient Egyptian sculpture.

The format for the talks is more of less the same each time.  You meet in the relevant gallery where about five minutes before the talk begins a volunteer laden with black plastic headphones begins passing them around.

Pharaoh Rameses II ... Egyptian galleries ...
  These headphones are linked to the microphone carried by the speaker so everyone in the group gets to hear clearly.  When the speaker arrives, after a brief introduction they lead you to items in the gallery associated with their talk.  Sometimes this might include a number of exhibits, sometimes, as with the astrolabe, it might be just the one.  And trust me, you will be amazed at how much each item has to reveal.

Each talk lasts 45 minutes and the subjects are listed either at the museum’s information desk or under Daytime in the Events Calendar section on the museum’s website: www.britishmuseum.org

If the day’s subject is one that you’ve always wanted to know about, or if it strikes a sudden chord, or even if you want to while away a wet afternoon, I can guarantee you won’t regret joining one of many others for a free British Museum gallery talk.

steve71 says:
Jean thanks for this info I had some friends over from Canada in Msy and one of them went to the British Museum and I went to meet them as they were finishing as I had to go somewhere else that day but I promised myself that I will this winter spend some time there and will look into going on some of these talks and many thanks for the excellent blog
Posted on: Aug 03, 2014
sclark521 says:
Jean, interesting blog!! I enjoyed it. Good to know. Can't wait to meet you when I come to London!
Posted on: Feb 01, 2014
HelenP says:
Jean. Just finished reading your London blog. You should write a `london on a shoestring book. It would sell.
Posted on: Jul 27, 2013
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British Museum on an autumn day ...
British Museum on an autumn day ...
Buddhist Monk ... China galleries …
Buddhist Monk ... China galleries…
Pharaoh Rameses II ... Egyptian ga…
Pharaoh Rameses II ... Egyptian g…
Sekhmet, goddess of healing ... Eg…
Sekhmet, goddess of healing ... E…
Oboto Masquerade ... Africa galler…
Oboto Masquerade ... Africa galle…
Sphinx ... Egyptian galleries ...
Sphinx ... Egyptian galleries ...
Mans Cloth ... Africa Galleries
Mans Cloth ... Africa Galleries
Egyptian galleries ...
Egyptian galleries ...
Stone Guardian Figure ... China 17…
Stone Guardian Figure ... China 1…
Basalt Figure ... Easter Island ...
Basalt Figure ... Easter Island ...
Terracotta Head ... Benin ... Nige…
Terracotta Head ... Benin ... Nig…
Stone Head ... Benin ... Nigeria .…
Stone Head ... Benin ... Nigeria …
Mask ... Congo ...
Mask ... Congo ...
House Post ... Papua, New Guinea .…
House Post ... Papua, New Guinea …
Lion panel ... reconstruction ... …
Lion panel ... reconstruction ...…
The Queen of the Night ... possibl…
The Queen of the Night ... possib…
Pottery from the Amarna Cemetery .…
Pottery from the Amarna Cemetery …
Jericho ... tomb reconstruction ...
Jericho ... tomb reconstruction ...
Benin Bronzes ... Benin, Nigeria .…
Benin Bronzes ... Benin, Nigeria …
Benin Bronzes, Benin, Nigeria ...
Benin Bronzes, Benin, Nigeria ...
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photo by: ulysses