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Before Anna Wintour? The Pandora Doll

By Masha Voyles

Just a handy hint: the bits in bold might answer bonus questions on your hunt!  Buy your tickets to the Fashion Hunt at the V&A here.

How on earth was a fashionable lady in the 18th century able to keep up with the latest trends? The answer was the Pandora, or miniature dolls dressed up in the latest modes. Keep in mind, this was long before magazines were invented—and the first ones were incredibly rare and expensive, as they were hand-painted by groups of (probably shockingly underpaid) little girls and young women! Clothing was also far more expensive than it is today, so it was important to know all the details of the cut, colour and fabric that you wanted.  

18th Century French Pandora fashion doll wearing gold dress with colourful details and with a creepy face

In 1712, when Britain and France were at war with each other, Pandora dolls were exempt from the ban on enemy imports, and even received a military escort! Marie-Antoinette, when preparing to go over to France from Austria, got sent a host of these dolls in different fabrics and fashions.  

An English 18th –century fashion doll in the Fashion Gallery at the V&A. There are 6 fashion dolls in the same room.  

With the advent of cheaper, ready-to-wear clothes and fashion magazines, fashion dolls seemed like a thing of the past. However, they made a brief return in 1945 in France just after WWII. The French economy—and the haute couture industry—was in tatters. The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris decided to commission designers to dress these knee-high fashionistas in their creations, and to display them against lavish sets. The dolls were sent on tour all around the world and were called the ‘Theatre de la Mode’.  

fashion dolls from the ‘Theatre de la Mode’, now at the Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington State.
fashion dolls from the ‘Theatre de la Mode’, now at the Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington State. 

Are you signed up for the launch of our new Fashion Hunt at the V&A (Kicking off Thanksgiving Week at 2-4:30 Sunday 24 November)? Bonus questions are embedded in your treasure text. You may just have read the answers to some embedded bonus questions in this post! Tickets are limited, but can be bought here & find bonus answers in upcoming posts about Amazing Accessories (fans & their secret language!) and the feisty Fashionista, Josephine Bonaparte (yes, Napoleon’s Empress) the predecessor of our runway sampling, the Pandora Doll!

Paranoid Napoleon banned the Fashion Doll, because he was scared that state secrets could be sewn into the dresses & exported with spies!

Cafés at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Gamble room by Joseph Gamble in the V&A restaurant. Beatiful white marble and gold columns and decoration.
Gamble room, James Gamble, 1865 – 78. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Fittingly for a museum of art and design, there are three beautiful and inspiring places to eat, drink and rest inside the V&A. The Main Cafe is also the worlds very first museum cafe, with its three rooms still in their original design. All of these can also make great places for score tallying and prize giving after you THATMuse Treasure Hunt!

V&A garden cafe, with tables and chairs under umbrellas near trees and water feature
The Garden Café. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Garden Café

In one corner of the V&A’s beautiful garden is the relaxed Garden Café. Serving coffees, cakes and other refreshments in the heart of the buildings, its the perfect place to admire the building’s uniquely beautiful architecture.
We often begin our Travel Trail and Fashion Hunts here, (weather permitting!) and it can be a lovely place to dip your toes in the pool and enjoy the sun.

The Garden Café is open all year, weather dependent in December and January.

Sleek glass front of Sackler Courtyard cafe with white tables and chairs outside V&A
The Courtyard Café. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Courtyard Café

The new Courtyard Café at the Exhibition Road entrance is a stylish place to grab a bite, right next to the exciting special exhibition gallery. Depending o time of day it serves healthy breakfast pastries, open sandwiches and salads for lunch, as well as an interesting selection of British craft beer and sparkling wine.

Opening times:
Daily: 8.30 – 17.45
Friday: 8.30 – 20.30

Please note: occasionally the Courtyard Café will not open until 10.00 due to museum events.

Green decorated walls and stained glass windows in Morris room, 1866 – 8 Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Morris room, 1866 – 8. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Main Café
Gamble, Morris and Poynter Rooms

The V&A’s main cafe is actually the world’s first museum cafe! First built in the 1860’s, long before London’s other museums invested in catering, the South Kensington Museum as it was then known was a bit more of a trek out of the city proper than it is today. So the founding Director Henry Cole decided a restaurant would attract more visitors and aid in their enjoyment of the wonderful collection. He hired three eminent designers to decorate the rooms;  James Gamble, William Morris and Edward Poynter.
These incredible rooms now host a huge range of hot and cold meals, drinks and treat. You can even book a replica High Tea that Queen Victoria herself enjoyed!

Opening hours:
Daily: 10.00 – 17.10
Friday: 10.00 – 21.15

Blue porcelain wall decoration, stained glass windows and iron fireplace in Poynter room V&A
The Poynter Room

SEKHMET THE DESTROYER  

black statue of lion headed Egyptian goddess sekhmet at the Louvre
Sekhmet at the Louvre

Sekhmet was a fierce warrior goddess, protector of the pharaohs and daughter of the sun god Ra. She was the goddess of destruction and purging, and was worshipped in Memphis as ‘the destroyer’. Her name means, “the (one who is) powerful or mighty” but her nicknames include “(One) Before Whom Evil Trembles”, “Mistress of Dread”, “Lady of Slaughter” and “She Who Mauls”–sounds like a friendly lady. Pretty awesome nicknames, huh? Might be a good source of inspiration for coming up with your next THATMuse team name, right?  

She’s often depicted as half woman/half lioness (Incidentally, can you think of any other gods and goddesses who also have animal features, perhaps featured on the THATMuse blog? Hint: his name begins with an H and he has the head of a hawk).  Sekhmet was closely associated with the desert, and therefore often shown with a sun disk on her head.  

four statues of sekhmet in room 4 British Museum wearing sun disk headdress.
Statues of Sekhmet in Room 4, British Museum

In one myth, she was sent to earth to destroy her dad’s, Ra, enemies but she grew so bloodthirsty she almost killed off everyone—to stop her, Ra poured out a mass amount of beer stained red (with pomegranate juice) tricking Sekhmet into thinking it was blood. She drank so much of the red beer and became so drunk that she gave up killing people and went back sleepily and peacefully to Ra. When she awoke from her drunken stupor, the first thing she saw was Ptah—the god of creation, and fell instantly in love with him.  

Egyptian papyrus with hieroglyphs and images of gods
Can you spot Sekhmet with her Sun disk headdress? How many other gods can you name?

Every year there was a festival to honor Sekhmet, where Egyptians would get completely black-out drunk to imitate her. (Is it just me, or does this festival sound like a good excuse to throw a party?) Mankind also had to constantly appease her with offerings to abate her wrath. Egyptologists think that Amenhotep III built a temple with over 700 statues to her so that people could honor her every day of the year with a different statue. Hence part of the reason why statues of her abound: say hello to this bloodthirsty babe at the Louvre and the British Museum, and also at the Met and the Vatican (Don’t THATMet or THATVat have a ring to them?!)  

OR; HOW TO DEFINITELY LOSE A BOAT RACE

See Part 1 of our Egyptian Gods series here!
Just a heads up: some of the things in bold might be the answers to bonus questions on your hunt!  

Isis gave birth to a baby boy with the head of a hawk (must have been a freaky experience), called Horus. When Horus was all grown up, he decided to fight his evil uncle Seth for the throne. (Since his parents were siblings, Seth was his uncle on both sides—freaky, right?)  

Sculpture from British Museum of falcon headed egyptian god horus on one knee with one fist raised and one to his chest

Seth challenged Horus to a series of contests to see who would become king of Egypt. In one battle, Seth gouged out one of Horus’s eyes, but it was restored by the goddess Hathor (the mother of the sun god Ra). The ‘Eye of Horus’ became a symbol of healing and protection in Egyptian art. Keep an eye out for it next time you’re scouting out Egyptian treasure!  

blue yellow and red eye of horus amulet from the British Museum
An Eye of Horus amulet from the British Museum Collection

The contest that Seth and Horus had was a boat race. But this boat race had a twist: Seth and Horus would be racing boats of stone. Horus was a bit of a trickster, and built a boat that was actually wood, but covered with plaster to look like stone. Seth’s boat sank right away, of course, and all the gods laughed at him. Seth was angry at his failure and transformed himself into a huge hippopotamus and attacked his Horus’s boat. They fought, but just as Horus was about to kill Seth once and for all, the other gods intervened.  

In the end, all of these contests proved pointless. Instead, the gods decided on a more sensible course of action: to write a letter to Osiris who was God of the Dead, and ask his advice. Osiris said that Horus was a better candidate for king as he had not killed anyone (this seems like a pretty solid criterion for most job descriptions, to be honest).  Finally, Horus became King of Egypt.  

Going back to Seth and Horus’s boat race, boats were an incredibly important symbol in Egyptian mythology. The solar god Ra, was thought to ride on his magical boat through the sky providing light to the world, and travelling to the underworld at night. Egyptian pharaohs were also thought to travel through the underworld on a boat after their deaths—have a look at Queen Mutemwia’s funeral barge at the British Museum pictured below.  

Black sculpture of Queen Mutemwia’s funeral barge; British Museum Room 4
Queen Mutemwia’s funeral barge; British Museum Room 4 

Keep an eye out for depictions of Seth, Isis, Osiris and Horus in many of our British Museum themes, such as Fun + GamesLove Hunt, and of course the chilling Skull Scouting. Keep an eye out the same cast of characters while scouting out the Zodiac of Dendera and the Sarcophagus of Ramesses III at the Louvre in our Skull Scouting and Beauty and the Bestiary hunts there. 

Or, How Not to Treat your Siblings!

Just a heads up: some of the things in bold might be a handy hint for your next treasure hunt!  

Geb, the sky god and Nut, the earth goddess had four children: Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nepthys. Osiris was the eldest son, so he became king of Egypt. He married his sister Isis, who became his queen. His younger brother Seth, was jealous of him, as he was loved and respected by everyone. 

Sandstone Egyptian tablet showing Seth and a worshipper with traces of paint and hieroglyphs
Seth (left) and one of his worshippers

One day Seth transformed himself into a gigantic, frightening monster and killed Osiris. Then, Seth cut Osiris’s dead body into itty-bitty pieces and scattered it all across Egypt. Seth was now king of all Egypt, ruling alongside Nepthys his wife and sister.  

Statue of Goddess Isis protecting a figure of Osiris with wings extending from her arms on either side of him, British Museum collection.
Isis protecting a figure of Osiris with her wings.

Isis cried and cried over her lost husband. She had magical powers, and decided to try and bring her husband back to life, at least long enough that they could have a child. Her sister Nepthys (Seth’s wife) felt sorry for her and helped her roam all of Egypt, looking for the itty-bitty pieces of Osiris’s body (sort of like a really, really gross treasure hunt actually).  She managed to find everything, except his penis, which she was forced to reconstruct with magic.  

Once they’d reassembled *most* of his body, Isis used her magic to bring him back to life. Soon after, she got pregnant with a baby boy (more about him in another blog post!) and Osiris descended to the underworld, where he became the God of the Dead. Unsurprisingly, he pops up a lot in the Egyptian Book of the dead, which was basically a book of spells, allowing you to pass safely to the underworld.  

Papyrus from the Book of the Dead showing judgment of the heart before Osiris Isis Horus Thoth and Anubis

Chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead at the British Museum—can you spot Osiris? It’s written on papyrus which is a reed that grows on the banks of the Nile river. 

This gory myth features again and again in Egyptian art, and also in our treasure hunts! Keep an eye out for depictions of Seth, Isis, Osiris and Horus in many of our British Museum themes, such as Fun + GamesLove Hunt, and of course the chilling Skull Scouting. Keep an eye out the same cast of characters while scouting out the Zodiac of Dendera and the Sarcophagus of Ramesses III at the Louvre in our Skull Scouting and Beauty and the Bestiary hunts there. No doubt, when we expand to NYC’s Met, our fine friends here will reappear (Temple of Dendur, anyone? Which only costs 50K to rent out!). 

By Halle Trang

It might come as no surprise to you that museums are very popular locations to film in. Some of the greatest museum halls in London and Paris act as great backdrops for action scenes, and the actual art pieces provide amazing visual appeal in music videos. We scoured the internet to find movie clips and music videos that were filmed in the very museums we host treasure hunts in. Keep reading below to find out which movies were filmed in the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, British Museum, Natural History Museum, and the V&A!

JEAN-LUC GODARD’S BANDE A PART (1964)

Louvre, 40-second movie clip

This short clip comes from Jean-Luc Godard’s Bande á Part, which shows three naughty New Wave teens in the 60s, running through the venerable halls of the Louvre. How different the museum looked back then! Do you recognise the rooms they’re racing through or the Daru stairs they’re tumbling down? Can you imagine the stairs being as empty today?

THE CARTERS’S “APES**T” (2018)

Louvre, 6-minute music video

This is a 6-minute music video by Beyonce and Jay-Z in the Louvre taken place in the Denon & Sully wings at night. Please note there are many expletives in this song, so you may want to view before sharing it with your children. I show it to my kids every time we visit, quizzing them on naming the painters, dates, periods and titles of the works that appear (from Venus de Milo to Gericault’s Raft of Medusa and the Great Sphinx of Tanis), but completely understand if you want to edit this due to the swear words.

MARTIN SCORSESE’S HUGO (2011)

Musee d’Orsay, 1-minute movie clip of opening scene

Although it was once a train station, the Musee d’Orsay has now been transformed into the wonderful museum that it is. It is most commonly known for its clocks, which were repurposed and are now used as windows that overlook the beautiful city of Paris. This opening scene in Hugo shows the main character climbing to the top and looking out at the Parisian streets through the clock face.

ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S BLACKMAIL (1929)

British Museum, 3-minute movie clip

We can instantly recognise the tall columns of the British Museum’s main entrance in this movie clip, which shows a chase scene through the museum and what was once the British Library. This was one of Hitchcock’s first films to have a chase scene near a famous landmark, foreshadowing other greats like North by Northwest. Imagine if we had access to the domed roof like the actors did!

PAUL KING’S PADDINGTON (2014)

Natural History Museum, 4-minute behind-the-scenes video

Taxidermist and antagonist Millicent Clyde, played by Nicole Kidman, only has one goal in mind: capture Paddington the bear for his rare hide. This clip gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look into the making of the film. Many of the Kidman scenes take place in the museum’s animal exhibitions, but can you spot any other famous attractions? (Think dinosaurs!)

ALEX KURTZMAN’S THE MUMMY (2017)

Natural History Museum, 1-minute behind-the-scenes video

Once again, a movie is filmed displaying the grand staircase in the central hall of the Natural History Museum. In this short 1-minute clip, Tom Cruise’s character is seen running across this area as shards of glass and dust fly towards him. Do you think the museum looks exactly the same as in the 2014 film Paddington?

THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS’S “HEY BOY HEY GIRL” (2008)

Natural History Museum, 3-minute music video

Our third find in the Natural History Museum comes not from a film, but a music video! The Chemical Brothers, a British big beat duo, came out with this song in 1999, but it wasn’t until 2008 that the music video for it was published on Youtube. In this music video, a young schoolgirl roams around the museum on her own and stares in fascination at the various skeletons and fossils around her.

DAVID KOEPP’S MORTDECAI (2015)

Victoria and Albert Museum, 2-minute movie trailer

The National Art Library’s reading rooms found in the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London are popular filming areas due to their grandeur and great lighting. In this movie trailer, you can see Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) and Inspector Alistair Martland (Ewan McGregor) discussing a missing painting in those exact reading rooms from 0:25-0:37.

Can you think of more films or music videos that take place in any other museums across London or Paris? Let us know in the comments below!

By Masha Voyles

Everything is ready for your trip, bags packed, itinerary all planned out. And then you realize…you haven’t bought your tickets to the Louvre, and everything is sold out! In the high season this is often a major pain. Never fear, however, there are a number of solutions available.

  • If you have already bought your tickets to the Louvre, but can’t make the time, you can easily change the date and time of your purchase if you look in the ‘My Orders’ section of your account. Of course, this is the best-case scenario, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
  • Another method is the “Paris Museum Pass” which covers city monuments (incl: Louvre & Musée d’Orsay, Versailles, etc). However, please note that although it is sold as a ‘skip the line’ pass, the line for these is much longer than the Louvre’s own e-tickets. Please note that you’ll still need to book timed entry in order to be able to get into the museum. You can do so here.
  • Fnac, and a number of other French retail chains, also have ticket services. Please bear in mind though, that their website is not at all user-friendly, and they can be difficult to deal with without any knowledge of French. However, if you’re in a serious bind it’s worth the struggle.  The closest FNAC is in the basement of Les Halles, a 10-15 minute walk from the Louvre
  • Another option that sells Louvre entry tickets for a small surcharge is this website, tiquets. The site’s straightforward and easy to use—definitely an easier option than Fnac, but often has fewer/more limited options in terms of timings.
  • Finally, a slightly more expensive option is through Viator, which charges a whopping £36.77 per ticket, though they do offer a wider range of last-minute timings.

NB: other small points to remember: All kids under 18 enter free (without the need for a blank ticket) and EU citizens under the age of 26 enter free with photo ID. We always recommend our clients who have kids aged 15 or older to bring photo ID with them wherever they go in Paris, anyway. We recommend you buy your tickets for 30 mins after you hunt start time.

child asleep on adults lap on seat in centre of an art gallery
TOURISTING can be tiring, we’ve all been there!


NB: The Louvre’s closed Tuesdays, open till 9:45 pm on Wed and Fridays. It tends to be more crowded on weekends and when it rains.

NB: A small plus many overlook, an entry ticket to the Louvre also gains access to the 6th Arrt’s Musée Delacroix, which has a lovely, quiet garden.

Okay, that’s about it folks! If you have any tips about getting last-minute tickets that aren’t listed here, please do share with us—we’re always looking for new ways to beat the system!

Rainy shot of the Louvre courtyard

By Annie Caley-Renn

We get it.

Kids don’t always love museums. You’ve tried your best, we know. The day begins well, with the whole family excited for a trip to the museum. Maybe your kids last an hour. A little more, if you’re incredibly lucky. Or maybe just a few minutes. But somewhere along the lines, the meltdown begins. The fun-filled day out you envisioned starts to seem like a distant dream.

The kids are tired. They’re hungry. Museums are boring anyway. Who wants to traipse around looking at old stuff when you could be watching TV?

And the truth is, you’re tired too. A part of you wonders if the kids are right. Are museums just boring, dusty old places? Because no matter how genuinely fascinating the exhibits, “museum legs” are a thing.

Is it your fault your kids just aren’t into this museum thing? Have you doomed them to a colourless, cultureless life? Will these traumatic childhood experiences leave them refusing to visit museums at all as adults?

Well, no. The truth is, we all feel like this at one point or another. But, while it’s tempting to think that maybe museums and kids just don’t mix, this simply isn’t true.

At THATMuse, we’ve helped hundreds of people visit some of the biggest and best museums in Paris and London. Lots of those people are families with kids aged from 5-13. And guess what – most of them leave saying that the British Museum is one of the best things to do in London with kids. Or that their trip to Paris with kids wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the Louvre.

Players strategizing for a Louvre scavenger hunt. Kid having fun.
Strategizing

How is this possible?

If even your local museum exhausts your kids (and you), how could you possibly fathom bringing them to some of the largest museums in the world? Because although the Louvre, the British Museum, the Musée d’Orsay & the V&A are among the most beautiful, impressive museums in the world, their sheer size mean that they are a challenge. For anyone. The Louvre alone contains eight miles of museum, for God’s sake.

The answer is pretty simple. And it’s something you can totally do on your own.

There’s one missing ingredient from your museum trips:

Competition.

That’s it.

After all, all parents have tried it:

“I bet you can’t tidy up your bedroom faster than your sister!”

“Let’s see who can be the first to finish their greens!”

“The first one ready at the door in their shoes and coat gets a treat!” (because after all, what is a competition without a prize?).

Museums are no different. By making them a game – one that can be won – you make museums… well, fun.

5 star tripadvisor reviews

3 Ways to Inject Some Competition into Your Day at the Museum:

  1. The Miniature Museum Treasure Hunt:

This particularly simple game works best with art museums. Pick something – anything – and have your kids compete to see who can spot the most of them. It really could be almost anything. Dogs. Angels. Redheads. Paintings of people who look like Grandma. Or better yet – have the kids pick something themselves.

Hint: things tend to stick in kids minds more if they’re gory, weird, or gross. Ask your kids to choose what they want to be on the hunt for, and don’t stress if they choose “skulls” or “ugly guys” or “boobies”. It’s their game, and if it makes it more fun for them, why not (though maybe have a chat beforehand about which words its appropriate to shout to their siblings from across the gallery).

2. The Postcard Game:

All museums have a gift shop, and all museum gift shops have postcards. Visit the gift shop before entering the main museum, and have the kids pick 3-5 postcards of pieces they like the look of (they’re usually quite cheap). Then, have the kids hold the postcards and hunt out the pieces themselves. Want to add some extra incentive? While in the gift shop, have the kids pick out their “prize” (within whatever price limit you decide on), on the promise that you’ll return to buy it afterwards if they complete their treasure hunt.

Hint: this works best in smaller museums – hunting the entirety of the Louvre or British Museum for one piece (unless it’s the Mona Lisa or the Rosetta Stone), is probably a bit too challenging, and puts your kids at risk of getting bored before they find their treasure.

two women and young girl examining wedding feast at cana painting by paolo veronese 16th century louvre
Hunting for treasure

3. The Imitation Game:

Challenge your kids to recreate as many paintings, sculptures or artefacts as they can, using nothing but their own bodies. They’ll have fun picking pieces to imitate, contorting themselves and being silly, and if you photograph it all, you’ll end up with some great shots for the album. What’s not to love? You might have to get a bit creative as to how to turn it into a competition, but perhaps you could have another family member judge who “wins” for each piece the kids choose to imitate.

Hint: To make it even more fun, join in! As we said before, kids remember silly things, so seeing you – their all-knowing, sensible parents turn yourselves into Michelangelo sculptures and Egyptian mummies will most likely stick in their minds forever. Embarrassed? Good! That just makes it all the more memorable.

Need some extra help?

You can do all of this and more all by yourselves, in any museum. The kids will benefit from soaking up all that lovely museum-juice, and may even learn a thing or two.  

If you’re visiting Paris or London with kids and would like a bit of extra help, THATMuse is ready to turn your miserable museum meltdown into a memorable day out.

Our hunts have been tried, tested and triumphed over by hundreds of kids. Some of those kids are now adults, and we’d be willing to bet they still remember their dads posing on all fours like a dog to win bonus points, or rushing against the clock with mom past magnificent Roman sculptures to try and rack up just a few more points.

The best part? It’s never been easier to book a Treasure Hunt with THATMuse! You can now book your Louvre Treasure Hunt with “friendly competition” directly online, by using our automated booking service. Ready to pit family against another like-minded group?

Click here to book your THATMuse Louvre treasure hunt today!

Terracotta bust of Sir Hans Sloane, Founder of the British Museum
Hans Sloane

Dubbed the first national public museum in the world, the British Museum didn’t start off as a grand, Greek-style building full of Egyptian mummies, Roman statues and Aztec turquoise. The museum has changed quite a bit in its almost 300-year history, but began with the donation of Hans Sloane (above), a high-society Irish physician – who also invented hot chocolate. What claims to fame!

Upon his death in 1753, Sloane bequeathed his collection of fantastic antiquities, books, and natural specimens to the nation. King George II and Parliament wanted Sloane’s collection to be seen by the people, not sit in a basement somewhere collecting dust. So later that year, Parliament passed the The British Museum Act, which formally established the British Museum at Montagu House – which stood on the spot of the current British Museum. To add some variety to Sloane’s science-heavy collection, Parliament included the Cottonian Library and Harleian manuscripts in the new museum for a taste of literature and art.  

FUN FACT: The board of trustees almost bought a place called Buckingham House, which some of you might know better as its current incarnation – Buckingham Palace.

As the collection grew, so did the museum. In the 1880s, the natural history collection had grown enough to become a museum in its own right. The collection moved to a building in South Kensington, in what we know now as the Natural History Museum.   

FUN FACT: Entry to the Natural History Museum is free. It has a fantastic collection of dinosaur skeletons too, including a famous 26-meter-long diplodocus. Check it out – and when you’re done, maybe go on a THATMuse treasure hunt at the V&A next door!

One of the most prominent additions to the British Museum was the introduction of the Elgin Marbles of the Parthenon, brought to the museum in 1812 by Lord Elgin. In 1931 funds were given by the controversial Sir Joseph Duveen to construct a new gallery for the Elgin Marbles. However, WWII got in the way and the gallery wasn’t opened until 1962. It was American architect, John Russell Pope, who designed the new gallery that you can now see today. Pope also designed the National Gallery in DC!

On the note of design, Robert Smirke is the man responsible for most of the recognizable parts of the British Museum you see today. The Quadrangle, the main section of the British Museum, was completed in 1852. You can still see it in the basic structure of the museum today, with wings in the north, south, east, and west. The first room to be competed was the Kings Library, finished in 1827. The library was one of main reasons the new building was built in the first place. King George the IV donated books belonging to his father, King George III, and the British Museum just didn’t have room for all of them! You can still see the restored Kings Library, though it is now called “The Enlightenment Room.”  

FUN FACT: The original design for the British Museum included dorms for museum staff, as the museum workers lived on site– which was common practice in those days!

Panorama of the British Museum Great court, staircases and central reading room, shadowed by norman foster's famous glass ceiling
Great Court in the British Museum

While the majority of the current British Museum was designed by Robert Smirke, one of the British Museum’s most distinctive features, the central court and dramatic glass ceiling (above), was designed by Norman Foster’s company (who also designed the famous Millenium – AKA “Wobbly” – Bridge!) The Queen Elizabeth II Great Court transformed the museum’s inner courtyard into the largest covered public square in Europe. The Great Court was a massive undertaking and was completed in 2000 to celebrate the new millennium. This beautiful and impressive space greets visitors as they first enter the museum – and what a vast number of visitors that is! For the past eight years, the British Museum has remained the U. K’s no.1 visitor attraction. Last year over 6.6 million people visited the British Museum to see the amazing history that it contains.

President Obama presents the 2009 National Humanities Medal to Philippe De Montebello in Washington
President Obama presents the 2009 National Humanities Medal to Philippe De Montebello in Washington, taken from daylife.com

I haven’t been very good on the blog front in the past few weeks, struggling to keep up on all my fronts. So as I task myself with returning to some semblance of regular posting I have a bit of distance.  What is it I’d like to get out of blogging here? Overall this blog has addressed either specific works of art at the Louvre (which may just help THATLou participants in their bonus questions) or has reviewed wonderfully memorable treasure hunts and the fun that the hunters have brought to the game. This is the core of the blog which I shall certainly continue, but I’d like to keep an overall dialogue alive, too, where we touch on museums on the whole and the art world at large and perhaps touch on one or two museum personalities here and there. So to start with an overview, what’s better than museum stats lists – the biggest, the oldest, the most popular?

The Art Newspaper is a marvelous source for the general public interested in Art. It’s a monthly published by the Italian publishing house Umberto Allemandi and is about the art world (you’d never guess it from the name, eh?). Though it’s catered principally to art professionals, it’s not a dry trade magazine.  I find it accessible and enjoyable to the layman (me) within the art world, however I also trust it as a source, because it has my old crush, Philippe de Montebello’s stamp of approval.

black and white photo of Philippe de Montebello in 1978 in front of the Met
Philippe de Montebello in 1978, photo by Paul Hosefros published in the NY Times on 9 Jan 2008

The former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY was the first museum president I ever formed an opinion of (that baritone voice, that fine accent, ah, what starry-eyed teen wouldn’t swoon? – ok, ok, I was a dork. But I wasn’t allowed to watch TV, I had to have some sort of entertainment). After 31 years at the Met de Montebello resigned in 2008 (here’s an adieu from Michael Kimmelman in the NY Times, with the excellent title “The Legacy of a Pragmatic Custodian of Human Civilisation“) to go down a few blocks to NYU and create a course which he described as “the history of collecting, connoisseur-ship and evolution of museums including the central issue of how the museum’s mission can be defined in today’s world”. Oh what I wouldn’t give to take that course, and at my old alma mater no less – but babies and jobs and 6000 miles keep me from it heart-breakingly.

In any case, with regard to The Art Newspaper de Montebello said it “stresses accuracy embracing an editorial policy that consistently reveals a high degree of seriousness and sense of responsibility.” (13 April 2006 issue of The Art Newspaper).  Its subjects range from art market discussions to art book reviews and Op-Eds, from curator interviews and features to new wing openings, down to conservation techniques and new discoveries. One list it produces, which all general newspapers like the BBC pick up each year, is the most visited stats.

This week I shall post the top fifteen museum attendance list from The Art Newspaper with an aim to use it as a loose TOC, to touch on those most popular museums, and perhaps cover links between them.

And, yes, I couldn’t help but put the photo of yet another crush at the top of the page – how great is that, a photo of Obama with de Montebello?

The comfortable spacious T. Rex Grill seating area
T. Rex Grill eating area

The T. Rex Grill

– Located in the Green Zone           
– Hours: 11:00 – 16:00
– Very cool display with moving dinos. A large space, great for large or small groups to meet up for score tallying (more of a sit-down place)
– Children welcome! Lots of space
– Offers burgers, steaks and pizzas at a pretty affordable price range- prices £10 and up; also offers desserts

The Kitchen's ordering bar
The Kitchen’s ordering bar

The Kitchen

– Located in the Red Zone         
– Hours: 10:00 – 17:00 
– Very kid friendly – offers lunch and activity packs to keep them entertained while parents eat (or tally up their hunts!) sit down place 
– Offers a variety of food from sandwiches, wraps and salads, pizza and burgers; also has dessert options (similar to the coffee house)           
– Prices range from £8.50- £12.50 for adults and £4.25- £5 for the children’s menu (kids under 12)         
– Adult Meal Deal: main, dessert, soft drink for £12.95            
– Kids Meal Deal: main, dessert, soft drink for £8   

Muffins on a cake stand in the Natural History Museum's The Coffee House
Great-looking muffins at the Coffee House

The Coffee House

– Located in the Red Zone (Lasting Impressions Gallery)            
– Hours: 10:00- 17:00            
– Offers pastries and baked goods ranging from £4-£6; perfect for grabbing a quick bite on the hunt (or some caffeine to refuel) or for small groups to score tally; better for on-the-go and for groups without children        

Dining area at the Natural History Museum's Central Café
Dining area at the Central Café

Central Café

– Located in the Blue Zone
– Hours: 10:00- 17:30
– Very family friendly; offers high chairs for babies and toddlers
– Mostly offers sandwiches and salads, but has on the go snacks like crisps and fruit if you need to stop and refuel; this is mostly on-the-go

Darwin centre research building lit with neon green

Darwin Centre Café

– Located in the Orange Zone            
– Hours: 10:00- 17:00 
– Very similar to the Central Café in terms of food – offers sandwiches and salads for more filling options, but also has crisps and a variety of baked goods like caked and pastries

THATKid Tuesday is a monthly dose of Art History for kids, which will usually be posted on the first Tuesday of the month. In this series we’ll be blogging about different terms from the THATKid glossary we’ve created to help kids understand some of the art history terms that pop up in our hunts.

ATTIC BLACK-FIGURE DINOS, by the GORGON PAINTER Cerveteri (from Athens, Greece), Circa 580 BC

Continuous Narrative is when one painting, or piece of art, tells different parts of a story all at once. This means that the same figures are often shown over and over again in the same piece. This Greek Gorgon Pot, part of the Beauty & the Bestiary hunt at the Louvre, is an example of Continuous Narrative. The Greek pot above shows Perseus killing the monstrous Gorgon named Medusa. After Perseus has killed Medusa the pot also shows him being chased by Medusa’s Gorgon sisters. Kind of like a pre-classical movie or Snapchat story!

Fra ANgelico's coronation of the virgin, with life of st dominic predella
Fra Angelico also has an example of Continuous Narrative, telling us the story of St Dominic’s life in the predella.
Lion killed by arrows, Assyrian Lion Hunt frieze, British Museum
Lion Hunt, British Museum, Assyrian Art, 668-631 BC

If you go on our THATMuse hunt at the British Museum you’ll see yet another example of continuous narrative involving someone being chased, although this time it’s the people chasing the ‘beasts’ and not the other way around. The Assyrian Lion Hunt from Mesopotamia shows different stages of a lion hunt, including the fate of this unfortunate lion on the left! Although other parts of the story might make you feel a bit less sorry for the lions and a little more scared of them – look at the muscles in that lion’s arm, look at those claws!

Ashurbanipal chokes a lion with his bare hand and stabs it with a sword. Assyrian Frieze British Museum 600's BC
Lion Hunt, British Museum, Assyrian Art, 668-631 BC

Any questions about Continuous Narrative? Leave us a comment with any questions.

The idea for THATKid Tuesday stemmed from the Kid Pack’s glossary. The Kid Pack has supplemental exercises for after your Louvre hunt, from a Michelangelo Connect-the-Dots and a Mona Lisa sticker-puzzle to a Botticelli Spot-the-Difference. Good for train rides or long French dinners, kids can also pick up on some terms like composition, perspective and the lot. As THATMuse has grown to include the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert and Musée d’Orsay, THATKid Tuesday’s blog version has grown to include other examples.

Tune in the first Tuesday of the month if you’d like another art history dose of THATKid.