The British Museum was not what I expected in both a good way and a bad way.
The British Museum was immense and overwhelming. It houses some famous pieces like the Rosetta Stone and it houses some real crap and knick knacks as well.
The lure and and mystique to the British Museum was that the pieces were collected all over the world, including some obscure places like Java and Sri Lanka. The real monetary value of the prized pieces is that they are all rare and quirky. The British Museum has not collected or acquired the most stunningly beautiful pieces in the world. Rather, they have acquired pieces that are rare and unique in some characteristic and can not be viewed elsewhere. It’s the magnitude of the museum and the rareness of the pieces involved that make a worthwhile experience, prestige and makes it a museum that stands out among other museums.
The British Museum is like no other museum in the other. The pieces are unique and can not be viewed elsewhere in the world. However, some of the best pieces of art in the world in terms of beauty and splendor can be viewed elsewhere. I was actually rather proud that the Tokyo National Museum and the Taipei Palace Museum housed a better collection of Asian art and artifacts. There are truly some stunning and magnificent pieces there. I am proud because the greedy British did not snag their hands on precious pieces from other peoples. Nay, those peoples retained their own heritage in their own space. Additionally, I think LACMA has a superior collection of Japanese art and the MET has a grander more extensive collection of worldly goods.
The British Museum is controversial in this regard. Some of the pieces were illicitly obtained and some think should be returned to their home countries. However, some of those countries are unstable and may face art theft and destruction due to chaos. It is not clear what the right thing to do is.
I was especially impressed by their collection of Middle Eastern art. The Middle East is in my heart and soul and it is the roots of Western Civ. It was galvanizing to see so much of it in good shape and in person and housed in a safe stable country. The Western world has made incredible efforts to preserve the heritage of the most powerful important place in the world, from the millennial perspective of course. I especially liked the Assyrian panels depicting war scenes and predatory animals catching their prey and humans dominating over predatory beasts. The subliminal message to obey and fear authority is truly felt in the pores of the skin in the body. Those panels reminded me strongly of Angkor Wat and there must be a missing link somewhere between Cambodia and the Middle East.
There is something noteworthy about British culture: they were curious about other peoples. Why would anyone care about Tibet, Burma, Bali, China, Assyria, Persia or Babylon? Why not demolish it all and clear the way for something new? Why care about those peoples from other places. Tibetans, Burmese, Balinese and Chinese certainly never tried to find or discover us. Assyria, Persia and Babylon were all mighty empires attempting to conquer all in their sights, but did they bother to preserve anything that they found? They destroyed it all or took it all as booty.
There is some kind of snob appeal about caring about other cultures, history, art, dead languages and civilizations. Maybe it is because it is hard and requires a lot of expensive education. There is something unique about Western culture that we actually cared about other cultures and that we want to be cultured and rounded. I like to see how other civilizations flourished. I like to feel a connection with other people from around the world.