What’s On!

2020 marks 100 years since the creation of the ‘Research Laboratory’ – a space for developing and conducting scientific research and conservation on the British Museum collection. Museum staff were quick to recognise the value of the laboratory’s work and, over the past century, scientists and conservators at the Museum have performed painstaking, groundbreaking work to improve our understanding of the collection and to care for it for the benefit of future generations. To kick-start our year of celebration, we’re pleased to share some of our favourite stories from recent years. We hope you enjoy them. Please keep an eye out over the coming months as we share recent conservation success stories, the latest applications of scientific research and report news of the latest work from both the Scientific Research and Collection Care teams. Carl Heron, Director of Scientific Research and Sandra Smith, Head of Collection Care Breaking down black ‘goo’ Research Assistant Dr Kate Fulcher’s analysis of the mysterious black ‘goo’ found in ancient Egyptian coffins, on the Museum podcast, makes for compelling listening. After analysing “crumbly black stuff” (her words) found in tombs at Amara West for her PhD, Kate was inspired to continue looking into unusual funerary [...]
Wed, Feb 12, 2020
Source: British Museum Blog
The current Asahi Shimbun Displays, Disposable? Rubbish and us, begins with two very different disposable cups. Disposable and single-use objects are about convenience, but they’re also more than that. Investing valuable labour and resources in things that may only be used once can be a way to show off wealth, power and status. A single-use cup made for Air India by a company in Finland. The one cup shown above may well be familiar – a small waxed-paper cup which displays the logo of Air India. It was used for serving hot drinks on flights and at airports, and was acquired by a British Museum curator travelling through Delhi in 1991. But, rather than being made in India, the cup was commissioned from a company in Finland. The logo style also speaks to the global trend for minimalist design in the early 1990s. Together these international connections helped to position the airline as a global brand. The other cup is perhaps more surprising – it was made on Crete during the Minoan period around 3,500 years ago. Looking closely at the cup shows that it has been hastily made. It was turned on a potter’s wheel, and the finger impressions of the maker [...]
Tue, Feb 11, 2020
Source: British Museum Blog
Desert X AlUla brings a Californian eye for grand-scale installations to an ancient and rarely visited setting. So, asks Stephanie d'Arc Taylor, can the striking formula really put this destination on the tourist map? [...]
Wed, Feb 05, 2020
Source: Independent art
From its inception to the present day, Tantra has challenged religious, cultural and political norms around the world. A philosophy that emerged in India around the sixth century, Tantra has been linked to successive waves of revolutionary thought, from its early transformation of Hinduism and Buddhism, to the Indian fight for independence and the rise of 1960s counterculture. The Sanskrit word ‘Tantra’ derives from the verbal root tan, meaning ‘to weave’, or ‘compose’, and refers to a type of instructional text, often written as a dialogue between a god and a goddess. The exhibition features some of the earliest surviving Tantras (see image below). These outline a variety of rituals for invoking one of the many all-powerful Tantric deities, including through visualisations and yoga. Requiring guidance from a teacher, or guru, they were said to grant worldly and supernatural powers, from long life to flight, alongside spiritual transformation. Folio from the Vajramrita Tantra (Nectar of the Thunderbolt Tantra). Palm leaf, Nepal, 1162. © Cambridge University Library. Many texts contained rituals that transgressed existing social and religious boundaries – for example, sexual rites and engagement with the taboo, such as intoxicants and human remains. Tantra challenged distinctions between opposites by teaching that everything is sacred, including the [...]
Thu, Jan 23, 2020
Source: British Museum Blog
The Greek hero Odysseus spent 10 long years striving to return home after the Trojan War. The stories of how he tricked the one-eyed Cyclops, evaded the flesh-eating Laestrygonians, and resisted the lure of the sirens as he struggled to reach Ithaca, are some of the most memorable in Homer’s Odyssey. These stories may be fictional, but they form the heart of a poem that has reverberated down the centuries as a vessel of eternal truths. Herbert Draper (1863–1920), Ulysses and the Sirens, 1909. Ferens Art Gallery. For centuries, people have been trying to discover who was behind the timeless tales of the Odyssey and its predecessor, the Iliad. Homer, the name attached to the two poems, remains a mysterious figure. Was he a man? Was ‘Homer’ a group or lineage of poets? Was Homer a woman? The late-19th-century novelist Samuel Butler was convinced that the author of the Odyssey, at least, was female. For most people in antiquity, however, the two epics were the products of a single male mind. Etching showing an allegorical scene from the title page of an edition of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Homer is standing in the centre and reciting poetry. Apollo, the god [...]
Wed, Jan 22, 2020
Source: British Museum Blog