British Museum: Top Ten Artifacts to See in the British Museum When You Visit


Since 1753, the British Museum has been a repository of world culture in the United Kingdom.  The earliest exhibits came from the personal collection of physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane, but was the British Empire rose to prominence; it began to receive many unique items from locations all over the globe.  It grew so much over its 250-plus years that it necessitated the creation of branch institutions such as the Natural History Museum and the British Library.  Today, the British Museum is still full of many artifacts that explore the world’s shared history and here are ten that you absolutely have to see when you visit.

Rosetta Stone

Part of the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery, explorers discovered it in Memphis Egypt in 1799, and it was massively instrumental in helping the Western world understand hieroglyphics and learn more about Ancient Egypt.  The stone itself depicts a decree that was written in hieroglyphs, Greek, and Demotic languages.


Another import from the archaeological digs that took place in Egypt during the Victorian and Edwardian periods are some 140 mummies that are in the museum’s collection.  Only a fraction of them are actually on display and include not only royalty but mummified cats.  The exhibit not only displays the beautiful collection of death masks, coffins, and artifacts but also explains the mummification process to visitors.

Granite Statue of Amenhotep III

The last thing you need to see in the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery is the granite statue of Pharaoh Amenhotep III.  Amenhotep ruled from 1390 to 1325 BC and was discovered around 1817 and then purchased by the museum from Henry Salt who had found it a Cairo warehouse.  The head is about 9 ½ feet tall and weighs 4 tons.

Easter Island Statue (Hoa Hakananai’a)


Commodore Richard Ashmore Powell acquired the statue from a ceremonial center in Orongo, Rapa Nui during an expedition in 1869 and from there it passed to the Lords of the Admiralty who presented it as a gift to Queen Victoria, who subsequently gave it to the museum.  Hoa Hakananai’a, or “Stolen or Hidden Friend”, is an excellent example of the ancestor statues found all over Easter Island, and is made of basalt.

Aztec Double-Headed Serpent

An absolutely fascinating piece of Aztec culture, the double-headed serpent was carved out of wood and is also a mosaic-covered in pieces of turquoise.  It’s unknown how the serpent left Mexico, though it’s thought to have been a gift to Herman Cortes and eventually found its way to collector Henry Christy, who bequeathed it to the museum along with a number of artifacts in his collection.

Sutton Hoo Mask and Ship Burial Collection

Americans might remember seeing images of the Sutton Hoo Mask on the covers of history or English Literature textbooks, and this artifact is only part of a larger Anglo-Saxon collection that was discovered at Sutton Hoo in 1939.  Over 20 burial mounds were uncovered here that yielded hundreds of items that give us insight into this period of British history.

Assyrian Lion Hunt Reliefs

These reliefs that date from around 650 BC show an Assyrian king displaying his power and authority by engaging in the ancient pastime of lion hunting.  The alabaster panels were discovered by Homuzd Rassam in 1853 on an archaeological expedition and tell the entire story of the hunt from the releasing of the lions to the dogs and guards that were there to keep the king safe as he proved his bravery.

Lewis Chessmen

Chess is a game that dates back centuries, as proven by this set of walrus ivory and whale teeth that was carved sometime between 1150 to 1200 AD.  Scholars believe the set was made in Norway and once belonged to a merchant who traveled between that country and Ireland, leaving the set on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland.  Eighty-two of the pieces are at the British Museum, and the remaining eleven can be found at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Portland Vase

The Portland Vase is an excellent example of early-AD Roman art, a cameo glass vessel that depicts images of love, marriage, and sex.  The images depicted suggest to scholars that it may have been a wedding gift.  It was previously in the possession of the Dowager Duchess of Portland, hence its name, and it’s actually been destroyed and restored several times since it came into the museum’s possession.

Parthenon Marbles

Also known as the Elgin Marbles, Lord Elgin acquired these statues and reliefs from the Ottoman Empire when it was in control of Athens and much of Greece.  The marbles are the source of great controversy between the British and Greek Governments, as the British Museum feels it is preserving a piece of world heritage while the Greek government takes the possession that the marbles are the country’s rightful property.  At any rate, for the moment, the British Museum is the place to see these wonderful pieces of ancient art.

British Museum: Top Ten Artifacts to See in the British Museum When You Visit – Londontopia – The Website for People Who Love London

#british, #london, #museum, #uk

London’s 16 Strangest Museum Exhibits

You’ve seen the Rosetta Stone, clocked the Crown Jewels, Insta’d the Elgin Marbles and done the dinosaurs of South Ken. What’s left to see?

Try these 16 oddball exhibits, at 16 London museums — then let us know your own favourite oddities in the comments.

1. The David Tennant Banknote (British Museum)

I'm that kind of man.

The museum’s Money gallery is sterling. It presents a potentially dry subject with invention and wit. A case in point is this fake tenner from an episode of Doctor Who. The show needed a scene in which banknotes flew out of an ATM. Producers decided it would be too risky and costly to use genuine notes, and it’s illegal to print realistic money. The compromise was to design a tenner that would look convincing on screen, but is clearly fake when handled. Cue, this Photoshopped curiosity, bearing the likeness of Tenth Doctor David Tennant. Or it might just be psychic paper.

2. A chicken with opaque glasses (British Optical Association Museum)

This little-known Charing Cross museum is literally packed with spectacles, including those worn by Ronnie Corbett and Dr Johnson. You’ll even find some contact lenses that once graced the eyes of Joey from Friends. Weirdest of all, though, is the chicken in the corner. Its beak sports a pair of opaque red shades, to stop it seeing rival roosters and turning aggressive.

3. Fragments of a flower left at Dickens’s grave (Charles Dickens Museum)

We include this morbid object simply to show that hero worship is nothing new. The writer, who famously stipulated that no statue should be built to his memory, is buried in Westminster Abbey. This flower from a well-wisher was left soon after, and is preserved for a bemused posterity at his former house in Bloomsbury.

4. Captain Sensible’s Beret (Croydon Museum)

Captain Sensible’s distinctive headgear takes pride of place in this excellent local museum. The third-most-famous beret wearer (Che Guevara and Frank Spencer have no Croydon links, to our knowledge) attended Stanley Technical School for Boys in South Norwood and released a single called ‘Croydon’. He’s perhaps more famous for his number one cover of Happy Talk, and the theme tune to Big Break.

5. A jar of moles (Grant Museum of Zoology)

Bloomsbury’s Grant Museum invites you to guess how many moles are rammed into its specimen jar. I don’t know why. I’ve never bothered to ask. You can see their tiny toes and everything.

6. The Horniman Walrus’s label (Horniman Museum)

The malstuffed pinniped who serves as mascot of the Horniman Museum certainly belongs on a list like this. But we hesitate. The creature is too famous. The shop sells stuffed toys, and the toothy mammal even appears in biscuit form in the Forest Hill attraction’s cafe. So, we’d instead like to commend the label. For years, visitors were advised not to touch the walrus. This was recently extended to form a surely unique string of words: ‘Please do not touch the walrus or sit on the iceberg’.

7. Wayne Rooney’s grinning head (John Soane’s Museum)

Shut up. It totally is.

8. Bumper Harris’s walking stick (London Transport Museum)

Bumper Harris walking stick.

William ‘Bumper’ Harris was a one-legged man, employed by London Underground to ride its first escalator all day long, and thus reassure multi-legged passengers that the new machinery was perfectly safe. The story sounds so bizarre that, for years, it held semi-mythical status. But Harris’s adventures did take place, and the evidence can be found in London Transport Museum in the shape of his walking stick and pocket watch.

9. A tiny protest (Museum of London)

Museum of London has an eclectic, some would say eccentric, attitude to acquisitions. It recently added a sample of sewer fatberg to its holdings, and even wanted to buy the inflatable Trump baby. A far more diminutive item of protest is already on show in its modern galleries. Here, a group of disgruntled Playmobil locals object to the march of developments surrounding the 2012 London Olympics, while soldiers prepare to shoot. It looks a bit daft now, but this could be a star exhibit in 2112.

10. Super-naked Noel Edmonds (Natural History Museum)

Oh. My. God.

Edmonds, perhaps most famous for his Crinkley Bottom, shows another side to his anatomy in the NHM’s Human Body gallery. The host’s heart, reproductive organs and partial digestive tract are all on show, yet only an empty box is to be found where we might expect a brain.

11. A fake merman (Science Museum)

A surprising number of museums harbour counterfeit merfolk, including the British Museum and Horniman Museum. These strange miscreations — usually made by sewing together bits of monkey and fish — were intended to dupe collectors. Our favourite is the specimen in the Science Museum. This charming man-fish is clearly modelled on Morrissey.

12. The great detective’s khazi (Sherlock Holmes Museum)

An elementary museum in terms of content, the Sherlock Holmes house museum nevertheless has some diverting oddities — whether the gory model of a severed thumb or the awkward moment where Watson confronts Holmes about his necrophilic habits. Those searching for the detective’s personal log should check out the porcelain toilet. Is it a prop from ‘The Adventure of the Second Stain’?

13. A professor in a cupboard (Twickenham Museum)

This is Professor Cockles, a well-known 20th century character of the Twickenham area. Cockles was something of a hero, saving many people from drowning in the Thames. He was also fond of making home-made diving equipment from scrap metal. Cockles died in 1981, but Twickenham Museum celebrates his memory with this broom cupboard display.

14. Everything (Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities)

The eponymous Wynd has long been a collector of the strange, eerie and eccentric. His personal museum on Mare Street presents some of his prize discoveries, from Kylie Minogue’s faeces to a double headed goat, via yet more examples of fake mermaids and the obligatory artwork of Austin Osman Spare.

15. Sex in a fruit (Wellcome Collection)

Sex in strange places is a bit of a hot topic on these pages. We’ve spoken to Londoners who enjoy sex on the tube, at iconic landmarks, or in the back of a black cab. None can compete with this adaptable couple, who have selected a series of hinged porcelain fruit for their carnal encounters. The curators at Wellcome Collection are unsure where the strange fruit comes from, or the purpose behind their saucy payloads.

16. The dummies (Whitewebbs Museum of Transport)

The (brilliantly) eccentric Enfield museum has much to commend it, including a collection of roundels, a model railway inside a train carriage, and a secret, gigantic well. But watch out for the unusual dummies, which seem to have been requisitioned from a long-closed fashion boutique. These include a New Romantic air-raid warden (top) and a drunken cross-dresser from the 1970s (bottom).

Share your strangest London museum discoveries in the comments below.

#museum, #uk

Villa Torlonia (Rome)

It was designed by the neoclassical architect Giuseppe Valadier. Construction began in 1806 and was completed in 1842. Currently the villa is a museum.


#museum, #rome, #villa

Top Ten London: Top 10 Things to See and Do in Lambeth

The London district of Lambeth is certainly one of the most happening places in the city, owing perhaps to its location along the banks of the River Thames.  The area gives its name to the larger borough of which it is part and derived from Lambehitha or “landing place for lambs,” shortened to Lambeth by 1255.  The manor of Lambeth was in the ownership of the Archbishop of Canterbury and grew into one of the most densely populated areas of South London.  Today, it houses many of the city’s best attractions, and while we have identified ten of our favorites, you can let us know your own favorite Lambeth spots in the comments.


More or less a tourist trap, the London Dungeon is still worth it for its opportunity to let you delve into the goriest and most terrifying moments in the city’s history.  The dungeon features several notorious persons and events from London’s past, including Jack the Ripper and Guy Fawkes as well as the Black Death and the Great Fire.  Of course, it’s not too scary as it’s all meant to be in good fun, so don’t feel too terrible about bringing your children along.


Lambeth Palace is the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church of England’s highest position (not counting the Queen who is the head of the church).  The Community of Saint Anselm, a religious order under the Archbishop’s patronage, also calls Lambeth home.  Its importance and Tudor-style architecture has netted it Grade I listed status, and the palace is available to tour so you can learn everything about its 800-year history and relationship with the Church of England.


While this has been included in plenty of top ten lists before, the London Eye still merits a spot when talking about Lambeth.  This Thames-based attraction offers a unique chance to see the city as your spin around the cantilevered observation wheel.  Dubbed “flights,” each trip lasts about thirty minutes and can be booked as a group, or you can reserve a solo flight for a greater cost.  For a bit more money, you can opt for champagne or chocolate with your flight.


Once known as the Museum of Garden History, this often-overlooked London museum is dedicated to all things that grow and the development of gardens over the centuries.  Its collections include gardening tools, designs, art, and the evolution of gardening.  The #museum is housed in the former church of St. Mary of Lambeth, it displays a great example of the repurposing of old buildings and is a must visit for anyone with a green thumb.


Fans of classic cinema houses will want to visit the #Cinema Museum in Lambeth. The museum was formed in 1986, and the current building has its own cinema history as Charlie Chaplin lived here when it was a workhouse.  Open for pre-booked tours throughout the year, the museum’s collection began with a collection of lobby cards and now includes film and projection equipment, posters, publications, uniforms, and items remaining from now-demolished cinemas from across the United Kingdom.  In the days of multiplexes and corporate-owned cinemas, Cinema Museum is a great reminder of days gone by.


Dedicated to history’s most famous nurse, the Florence Nightingale Museum is appropriately enough located in St. Thomas’ Hospital.  Of course, much of the museum’s collection focuses on Nightingale’s life, but it also takes great care to show you the continuing legacy that she had on the profession of nursing.   Presently the museum has an exhibit focusing on the Nightingale Training School, that produced some of the first generations of nurses using her methods as well as exhibits on the Crimean War and the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918.


An offshoot of its parent theater, The Old Vic, The Young Vic was built to showcase plays and talent “now and in the future.”  As such, its repertoire and company tend to focus more on newer plays and upcoming actors.  This can bring an interesting mix of contemporary and experimental plays.  The building was constructed in 1970 and only meant to last five years, but has since become permanent.  It’s one of the city’s best theaters in the round, meaning audiences get a 360-degree view of the stage and the players.


One of the grandest theaters in London, the Old Vic tends to host more traditional plays, though this doesn’t limit its repertoire as it has also been known to host contemporary pieces.  It has been in the entertainment business since 1818 when it was known as the Royal Coburg Theatre.  The theater also sponsors a younger company of actors that have provided Britain with several of its famous names, and it is highly likely that you will be able to witness some of Britain’s greatest and most famous talents at one of the Old Vic’s shows.


Sea Life #London Aquarium opened in 1997 and has more than 500 species of marine life spread out over 14 different themed zones.  From an amazing Rainforest Adventure to the Seahorse Kingdom, there’s a lot to explore and opportunities to get up close and personal with the aquarium’s inhabitants through portholes and tunnels that allow you to be fully immersed in their lives.  You may wonder what to do if you’re traveling in London without kids, but the aquarium is fun for all ages.


The primary location of the Imperial War Museums, the London museum focuses on modern conflicts from World War I to the present day.  IWM London has an extensive collection of items from World War II.  After you’re finished with World War II, you can move onto the Cold War and see how the shifting alliances at the end of the war helped to set up the political conflict with the Soviet Union.  The museum is funded by government grants, charitable donations, and commercial activity, so there’s no cost to enter.

Things To Do Today In London: Monday 18 March 2019

Things to do

Find out what makes people evil at Conway Hall.

LAST CHANCE: It’s the final week of The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution. The exhibition looks at the lives and deaths of Tsar Nicholas II — the last emperor of Russia — and his family. They were brutally and mysteriously murdered in 1918. Science #Museum (South Kensington), free, book aheaduntil 24 March

HIP FLASK: Put the hip into your hip flask at this workshop. All decorative materials including gems, sequins and sharpies are provided for you to pimp your hip flask. Drink, Shop & Do (King’s Cross), £5, book aheadfrom 6pm

YOUNG PEOPLE AND BREXIT: A panel of experts including Sarah Staples, Trustee of British Youth Council and Shakira Martin, President of National Union of Students, discuss what kind of country will be inherited by the younger generation, ahead of Brexit Day on 29 March. British Library, £10/£7, book ahead7pm-8.30pm

LONELINESS: With 9 million Brits apparently suffering from loneliness, and the government launching a ‘loneliness strategy’ to tackle it, find out what more can be done to stop this silent epidemic. The British Academy, £5/£3, book ahead7pm-9pm

See the original Phantom of the Opera.

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA: Before Andrew Lloyd Webber there was Roy Budd. The original Phantom of the Opera composer never saw his 1993 work — which he wrote to accompany the 1925 silent film — performed before his death. Tonight, it’s played alongside the film by the 72-piece Docklands Sinfonia. Barbican, £29-£39, book ahead7.30pm

MAKING EVIL: Would you kill baby Hitler? That’s one of the questions that comes up in Dr Julia Shaw’s talk about what makes some people do evil things. Topics such as cute aggression, serial murderers, terrorism, sexual assault and technology all come up in relation to our day-to-day morals. Conway Hall (Holborn), £8/£4, book ahead7.30pm-9pm

COMEDY RESERVE: Hundreds of comedians battle it out to be one of the four chosen to be taken to Edinburgh Fringe with Pleasance Theatre each year. Several of them try to impress tonight, with a seven-minute slot to perform their material, and the competition continues tomorrow night. Pleasance Theatre (Islington), £5, book ahead, 7.45pm

SPARK STORYTELLING: Authority is the theme of tonight’s Spark London storytelling open mic night. All stories have to be true, five minutes long, and about the person telling them. If you’ve got one to share, sign up — otherwise, sit back and enjoy other people’s tales. Ritzy (Brixton), £5, book ahead8pm

LIVE MUSIC: Fiddle player and songwriter Hannah Read performs tracks from her new album, Way Out I’ll Wander, showing off her vocal skills and guitar and fiddle playing. The Green Note (Camden), £10, book ahead8.30pm

Tube ponderings with Barry Heck

Our resident tube fancier dishes out daily thoughts on the London Underground.

Paul Day’s giant statue of two lovers at St Pancras is often lampooned as overbearing and simplistic, but look at its base for a real treat. A series of panels depict railway scenes, including this arresting image of a crowded tube platform reflected in some sunglasses. Follow Barry Heck on Twitter @HeckTube.

Good cause of the day

Spend a night sleeping outside at BoxPark Croydon to raise money for homelessness charity Evolve. Hear from representatives from the charity before settling down for the night. There’s a sponsorship target of £500 per person.