Just a handy hint: the bits in bold might be the answers to bonus questions on your hunt! Buy your tickets to the Fashion Hunt at the V&A here.
If there’s one wardrobe item that I’m praying fashion will eventually bring back, it’s the hand-held fan. They’re greener than air conditioner, a good workout for the arm, and often really, really pretty. There were floral fans, feather fans, ivory fans and printed fans, mask fans and even map fans (which were among the first tourist souvenirs).
Fans also often had hidden messages in them. This ‘Royalist’ fan, pictured below, would have shown the holder’s support for the Stuart royal family after George I, Elector of Hanover seized the British throne in 1714. It shows members of the Stuart royal family in its folds. On the left, Charles II is shown hiding in a tree after having been defeated by Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester, and next to him Queen Anne is shown ascending to heaven. Who would need to read books about English history if everyone carried educational fans?! The fan both reveals and conceals the wearer’s allegiances: once slightly folded, it would only have shown a demure floral design. But that design also has a meaning: the white and red roses were actually the Stuart coat of arms. Pretty sneaky stuff, right?
There was even an entire fan ‘language’: for example, holding it with your little finger extended meant ‘goodbye’, presenting it shut meant ‘do you love me?’ and carrying it in the left hand in front of your face meant ‘we are watched’. My personal favourite is ‘I love you’—you would draw your fan across your cheek—difficult to do this subtly, I think. Here’s a Vogue article linking a whole table of fan-language & its fun, secretive translations. Expanded vocabulary can of course be found at the V&A, where there are three British Royalist fans on display! Might want to memorise a few of them to up your flirting game!
Are you signed up for our upcoming new hunt, the Fashion Hunt at the V&A (Kicking off Thanksgiving week from 2-4:30 pm on Sunday 24 November)? You may just have read the answers to some embedded bonus questions in this post! Tickets are limited, but can be bought on Eventbrite & find bonus answers in posts about fashionista Josephine Bonaparte(yes, Napoleon’s Empress) or the Pandora Doll, the predecessor of our runway sampling (which Napoleon banned, incidentally, frightened state secrets were sewn in and exported with these dolls!)
Just a handy hint: keep an eye out for answers to bonus questions on your hunt! Buy your tickets to the Fashion Hunt at the V&A here.
The Empress Josephine—Napoleon’s wife—was a massive shopaholic, and was always getting into trouble with her hubby for overspending. On the other hand, this was somewhat unfair, considering the fact that he would then make snarky comments if a woman wore the same dress twice in front of him. It was also part of Josephine’s duty as empress to restore the French luxury industry, which had been all but destroyed during the French revolution. She needed to be a trendsetter to convince the French people that conspicuous consumption was cool again (and that it wouldn’t lead to one getting one’s head removed!)
Safe to say, Josephine took this part of her job description extremely seriously. She often wore white, both because Napoleon would often say how much he loved her in white, and because it was a luxurious colour (imagine how difficult it would have been to keep spotless in the days before washing machines!) Her style of dress was inspired by flowing, high-waisted Roman and Greek styles, thus differentiating herself from the ‘corrupt’, flowery 18th-century rococo styles of Marie-Antoinette and the Ancien Régime.
Take note of the high ‘Empire’ waistline in the portrait of her, and the gilded laurel-shaped embroidery at the bottom of the dress. The laurel is a symbol of triumph in Greek mythology—for example, the god Apollo is always represented wearing a laurel wreath. Might she also have been inspired by her husband Napoleon’s crown? (he’s often shown wearing a gold laurel crown in imperial portraits).
Want to learn more about Napoleon and his circle? Have a look at our blog post on the Borghese Beautyat the Louvre. It’s about Napoleon’s scandalous sister Pauline Borghese (of course posed as Venus Victrix), who was a feisty fashionista herself (when she fluttered down to keep her exiled brother company she brought her enormous wardrobe). The little corporal certainly did like trouble-making women!
Are you signed up for the launch of our new Fashion Hunt at the V&A on Sunday 24 November? You may just have read the answers to some embedded bonus questions in this post! Tickets are limited, but can be bought here. You can also find bonus answers in our posts about Amazing Accessories (fans & their secret language!) and the Pandora Doll, the predecessor of our runway sampling (which Napoleon banned, incidentally, frightened state secrets were sewn in and exported with these dolls!)
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.
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’.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Please note: occasionally the Courtyard Café will not open until 10.00 due to museum events.
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!
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.
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.
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?!)
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?)
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!
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 wasGod 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.
Keep an eye out for depictions of Seth, Isis, Osiris and Horus in many of our British Museum themes, such as Fun + Games, Love 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 + Games, Love 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!).
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
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
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
ALEX KURTZMAN’S THE MUMMY (2017)
Natural History Museum, 1-minute behind-the-scenes
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
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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.
missing ingredient from your museum trips:
After all, all
parents have tried it:
“I bet you can’t tidy up your bedroom faster than your
“Let’s see who can be the first to finish their
“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.
3 Ways to Inject Some Competition into Your Day at the
The Miniature Museum Treasure Hunt:
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
3. The Imitation Game:
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.
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
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?
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!
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.
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.
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?