As a student of classics, I have spent the past months completely engrossed in readings, lectures, discussions and analyses of relics of an ancient past, all of which lend themselves to one of the greatest stories ever told, the narrative of the ancient world. This story has been dictated to me most vividly through material evidence; my favourite kind of homework is that which involves visiting the galleries of ancient art and archaeology in the British Museum, from Assyria, Persia and Babylon to Greece and Rome. While I visit with an existing passion for history and some prior knowledge provided by my degree, I believe the Museum to be a powerful environment worthy of at least one visit, even by those who are uninterested in viewing historical relics, and especially by those who see a great distance between our contemporary world and the memory of the past.
Although I tend to focus my attention on the ancient Mediterranean galleries, the Museum houses artefacts from all over the world, from the earliest human settlements to cultures that still remain in our complex contemporary world. It is a hub where the entire world in past and present, it seems, comes together; the place where individual pieces of the puzzle that is our shared history as human beings, start to fit. No matter who you are, where you come from, or what you believe in, I find the Museum to be a place where diverse ideas are shared and celebrated, a place where one can seldom feel alone.
One key message I believe the British Museum and its exhibits do an excellent job of conveying is the cultural connectivity that has existed and grown over the years; as the Assyrian and Egyptian galleries melt into Greek and Roman ones, and the Roman influence extends into the British galleries, the visitor can begin to envisage how the various civilisations coexisted as organs within the massive body of the ancient world. Travelling through time to witness ancient civilisations become modern ones, and the way diverse cultures have interacted during those centuries, viewers are reminded of the beauty and innovation that can emerge when we inspire one another, and that destruction only forces us all a step backward.
Remains of the past never fail to possess an underlying meaning, an ulterior motive, a message amid marble and stone that those before us intended to convey, something beyond what meets the eye that can enrich our understanding of the culture and history that gave way to everything we know, and all we are at present. So I urge you to give the Museum a chance, and whether it be your first visit or your fifth, I hope it stirs something within you — laughter, memories, new understanding, appreciation for something foreign — the way it does for me each and every time.