On my trip to London this week, I made short visits to museums that I’ve been to before: The Museum of London near the London Wall, and the wonderful British Museum. The British Museum is one of the great wonders of London. If you’ve never been, you should plan to spend an entire day there. On my first visit, I was there until closing, and never made it to half of the collections. I especially like the ancient world (Greek and Roman) including the Elgin Marbles and the Rosetta Stone. This trip, I headed for the section on Europe in the Middle Ages, which is a special interest of mine. If you have any interest whatsoever in history or archeology, of any part of the world, you must see this place.
When I first visited about 15 years ago, the British Library was located at this site, but is now housed near St. Pancras Station, and definitely worth a visit. There, I recall see one of the four remaining original Magna Carta documents, illuminated manuscripts, a Gutenberg bible, John Lennon’s scribbled lyrics, and the only ancient manuscript of Beowulf, probably the oldest surviving literature written in what can be recognized as English. This place is also worth visiting!
Of course, as is my habit, I intersperse sightseeing with trying out the local libations, so I stopped at a nearby pub that was appropriately named “The Museum Pub” and reports itself, complete with a plaque, starting its age and relationship to the nearby museum.
Another day, I made a repeat visit to the Museum of London. Several years ago I read Stephen Inwood’s 1100-page History of London, and have always had an interest in this ancient city. I had read there was a special exhibit called “Doctors, Dissection, and Resurrection Men” referring to the many anatomical surgery and medical schools that began to appear in 19th century London as medicine began to enter the modern age, and the grave robbers that were the frequent source of the cadavers needed to help train future doctors. This particular exhibit was the result of a discovery of a large graveyard, uncovered when the Royal London Hospital was being expanded, whose jumbled bones revealed the signs of autopsy.
The museum neatly covers the topics of the ethical, moral, and legal aspects of early autopsy and dissection schools, and laws passed during the 19th century, only recently amended, that gave these schools the right to unclaimed bodies of the poor. Pictures are not allowed in the exhibitions, so sorry, no bones!
- Tread Softly… (londonhistorians.wordpress.com)
- Medical Marvels of London (onefinestay.com)
- The Dawn of Modern Surgery (londonhistorians.wordpress.com)
- London with the Boys (twodifferentgirls.com)
- Elgin Marbles, British Museum – Photo a Day – Travel Photography (Travel Photos) (travelingwithkrushworth.wordpress.com)