I have finally got my photographs downloaded from my epic visit to the British Museum at the beginning of the week. I took way too many (as always) but was pleased they all came out. I had in fact taken my brand new, super dooper 30X lens Samsung camera in my rucksack but when I got to the hotel I was horrified to find that the 'on' button had been in place and had drained the battery. Having decided not to take the charger on my trip, I was left with only my phone camera or iPad.
For those of you that have never used the iPad as a camera, then I would encourage you to try it! It worked brilliantly, even through glass, and it pretty easy to carry around. Ok, some of the shots weren't as sharp as I would have liked when the light was dim, but the quality was far better than some of the camera's I have used before. Well-lit rooms posed no problem and the focus was great overall. Some 248 shots later, I was very pleased with the results. Downloading them onto my MAC computer was a piece of cake via the USB lead and they took less than a minute to send across.
First port of call was the downstairs Egyptian room where the large sculpture is held. The room is well lit, contains some amazing pieces and is roomy enough to get around easily. I would suggest however that you get there as early if you can, for when the gallery fills up with school trips and tourist groups, the decibel level rises to epic proportions. I was there around 11.30 and I felt the need to take a break away from the noise halfway through the visit. I soon returned however and spent an enjoyable hour meandering around.
Many of the visitors were using the audio guides available which highlighted some of the main exhibits and gave a potted history of the pieces and their importance. It is a great interactive device that is well thought out and so easy to use. The British Museum is in fact on top form when it comes to visitor information. Several information points in the foyer update regularly with the day's free talks and gallery activities, including the Egyptian galleries. Labelling of the exhibits is also excellent...they are not overloaded with text, but have enough on them to get you interested and be able to understand what you are looking at.
But now onto my bugbear...Despite clear and regularly notices saying please do not touch the objects, I was horrified at how many people thought it ok to rest their bags on a beautifully preserved statue, to have a photograph taken draped over the collossal arm so they could imitate the clenched fist with their own, to tap a pencil on a statue (the school child wasn't told off by his teacher despite being seen doing it) and a man using a coffin to rest his camera on so he could take a better shot at the nearby shrine. What makes people think this kind of behaviour is acceptable? I absolutely love the fact that the objects are not enclosed because this gives the visitor a chance to examine closely the beautiful workmanship of the antiquities. But what else can the British Museum do to stop such behaviour? To put these objects behind glass is to take away some of the wonder of being able to get up close and personal with them, but with this accessibility comes risks. These objects have survived millennia but are unwittingly scratched and buffeted by those who are admiring the very same preserved objects.
Now I am not saying this was the majority of visitors...not in a long shot. Most people were respectably keeping away from touching the objects and parents were keeping their children from doing the same. It is a small minority who let the side down.
What is the answer? More gallery assistants? 'Fences' around the objects? Educating the visitors of damage that is caused? I really wish I knew!