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In order to reappraise discourses on the restitution vs. retention of Africa’s cultural heritage, Eyssette examines the Musée du Quai Branly (France), the AfricaMuseum (Belgium), the British Museum (UK), and the Humboldt Forum (Germany) as one representative spectrum for analysis showing the mutual imbrications of their changing strategies and practices. After detecting biases in retentionist arguments on security, accessibility, law, and ethics, Eyssette stresses symmetrical shortcomings in restitutionist discourses on provenance research and the instrumentalization of heritage for economic gains or post-colonial rebranding. The conclusion determines whether these four institutions are retentionists, rhetorical restitutionists, or truly reformed restitutionists.
Historians and archaeologists habitually describe ancient households as domestic contexts without explaining what the neologism means or how it relates to Greek and Roman household organization. This chapter interrogates the disciplinary usage of the term by exploring how the category of the ‘domestic’ has evolved at the intersection between representations of private life in modern museum galleries and Athenian vase-painting, on the one hand, and normative evaluations of significant and insignificant human action, on the other. A survey of three museum displays (in the Museo Ercolanese, the British Museum and the Getty Villa) reveals a shift in how the domestic sphere was defined, substituting for the models provided by the architecture of European noble estates the home of the Victorian citizen, with its gendered distinctions between private and public. To understand this shift the discussion extends from the factors of industrialization and middle-class consumption foregrounded in social histories of the 19th century to the contemporaneous discovery of non-mythological scenes in Athenian vase-painting as depictions of ‘everyday life’.
Charles Lamb spent two periods working at the library of the British Museum, in 1804–1807 and 1826–1827, as preparation for a volume of extracts from old plays in the Garrick collection entitled Specimens of English Dramatick Poets (published 1808) and latterly a series of contributions based on the same collection that appeared in William Hone’s Table Book (1827). In the roughly twenty years separating these two periods both the library itself and Lamb’s working life changed significantly, Lamb having left the employment in the East India Office to become a ‘superannuated man’ in 1825. This chapter examines these changes in the context of the emergence of scientific and literary Institutions in the early decades of the nineteenth century. In tandem with the British Museum, the libraries of these Institutions facilitated the emergence of institutionalized reading or professional literary ‘research’, with long-term implications for the emerging literary field in the Romantic period. Lamb’s two sojourns working on the Garrick plays offer a perspective from which to gauge diversification in reading practices in the early nineteenth century, who could read in institutional contexts, and what, ultimately, such reading might be for.
The work of the Commission in addressing readers and books alike lies at the heart of the nineteenth-century response to what was generally recognised as a much wider crisis. It attracted comment from all kinds of readers, besides those who had never thought of reading there. The deepest investigation so far of what became the largest library in the world. How did the Museum’s activities affect other libraries elsewhere?
Two damaged and partially restored Roman portraits in the collection of the British Museum, previously identified as either the emperor Caligula or an unknown “Julio-Claudian prince,” are here reassessed and identified as Agrippa Postumus, the youngest grandson and adopted heir of Augustus. The first portrait, from southern Britain, may have come from a temple dedicated to the worship of the Julio-Claudian house, while the second was probably part of an equestrian group standing outside the Aedes Castoris in Rome. This is a significant reinterpretation, providing potential evidence not only for links between Rome's first family and the rulers of a distant client kingdom, but also for the framing of imperial power and the uncertain nature of the Augustan succession in the early years of the 1st c. CE.
Early explorers and excavators knew only biblical and classical accounts, some of them garbled and confusing. They were unaware that Babylon had an advanced literate culture. Mud-brick ruins contrasted unfavourably with marble, and the sprawling site of Babylon had many separate mounds, with the Tower of Babel indistinguishable amid the rubble. As Babylon’s power grew, quarters of the citadel were named after more ancient cities, and branches of temples to deities in other cities became established there. Early travellers from the twelfth century onwards brought back to the west their accounts of what they saw. In the seventeenth century, cuneiform writing on stone was identified at Persepolis. In the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, cuneiform inscriptions from Mesopotamia increasingly arrived in Europe and a few national museums were soon built to house the items discovered by travellers, dilettante collectors, and informal excavators. Decipherment then began to excite public interest, but literal understanding gave way only slowly to appreciation of symbolism and rhetoric. Official excavations in Babylon took place under German leadership between 1899 and 1917. A chronological sequence for the history still has a few unsolved problems. Cuneiform writing unexpectedly lasted into Roman times.
The introduction of the smartphone into the private and professional lives of humans has provided a channel to real-time and place-specific information that can enhance (and disturb) day-to-day living. Given such impact, many museums and archaeological exhibitions have chosen to develop digital applications to enhance the visitor experience via accompanying the visitor through the exhibitions. Yet after a decade, these applications still seem understudied and, in practice, very undeveloped. This review aims to shed some light on the possibilities and shortcomings of museum apps. I discuss and critically evaluate the technical efficiency, practical utility, and user experience of the British Museum Guide (Museums Guide Ltd.) and My Visit to the Louvre (Musée du Louvre) applications. These two mobile apps represent the contemporary standard for museum apps, thereby allowing me to generalize about this genre of digital media.
New methods of visualisation offer the potential for a more detailed record of archaeological objects and the ability to create virtual 3D models that can be made widely available online. Here, two different techniques are applied to the impressive Easter Island statue on display in the Wellcome Gallery at the British Museum. Of particular importance are the details revealed of the petroglyphs that decorate its surface.
In standard architectural history surveys, the British Museum is portrayed as an example of nineteenth-century “neoclassicism”, or the “Greek revival.” Usually cited as among the motive factors in this revival are the writings about European travels and archaeological explorations in the then Ottoman lands of ancient Greece, as well as a general interest in Hellenic culture. Yet the cultural and architectural appropriation of the Hellenic is not analyzed in relation to the possible ties and tensions between European archaeological culture and the Ottoman response to antiquity. This paper is an attempt to align the British Museum’s “Arcadia in Bloomsbury” with the Ottoman Imperial Museum, Müze-i Hümâyun, in İstanbul, and to look at them afresh beyond the usual discourse of style. The paper analyzes the “neo-Grecian” “Temple of Arts and Sciences” in London, supposedly inspired by those in Priene and Teos in the Ottoman Empire, and the Müze-i Hümâyun, whose façade allegedly replicates the Sarcophagus of the Mourning Women, transported to the museum from Sidon in Lebanon by Ottoman officials, understanding them as charged manifestations of “correspondence” or “transfer” within the web of circulating ideas, models, ancient remains, travellers, and architects of the nineteenth century.
This paper examines two tenth-century woodblock prints from Dunhuang acquired by Sir Aurel Stein. They are registered under the numbers Ch.00151 and Ch.00152 at the British Museum. The first, Ch.00151, is dedicated to Avalokiteśvara and the second, Ch.00152, to Amitābha, both with magical formulas written in Siddham characters in square or circular fashion around the central image of the respective deity. Editions, translations and identifications of the texts are presented along with a study of the Chinese inscriptions on the side of the xylographs. It is shown that these two objects were apparently produced to serve as amulets.
For nearly half a century, the Radiocarbon Lab at the British Museum was at the forefront of helping to develop and in applying this fundamental dating method. Thousands of samples were processed, and innumerable sites and objects dated. Now the lab has closed, and Sheridan Bowman, the Keeper of the Department of Scientific Research, assesses the lab's contributions.
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