Sometimes I get a request to write our relocation to London blog about some free places in London worth a visit.  This particular location you could spend a week straight at and still not see it all.  (And that’s just the inside, the outside is endless Botanical Gardens by KEW, an easy few days extra.)  The British Museum takes up a monstrous area in Russell Street, near Russell Square and the tube station.  Just a short walk over from Covent Garden, there are a number of exhibitions going on at all times.

The British Museum collection was pulled together in 1753 , but the first building was erected  and opened to all those living in London to see in 1759.  Its starting collection came from a personal donor, Sir Hans Sloane, and it’s been growing steadily to a current status of over 2,000,000 artifacts since the eighteenth century (that have all had their own relocation UK) .  If you’re a lucky expat that just completed their relocation to London, or if you are a Canadian moving to London, you never quite get used to the fact that this country has been around so very long.  It really makes you feel the heritage of its people, and remember your now part of that, living in London.

The current exhibition main attraction is really best described by the Museums website, here’s an excerpt of the highlights:

The exhibition features over 150 objects from more than 40 institutions including the Vatican, European church treasuries, museums from the USA and Europe and the British Museum’s own pre-eminent collection.

It was during the medieval period that the use of relics in devotional practice first developed and became a central part of Christian worship. For many, the relics of Christ and the saints – objects associated with them, such as body parts or possessions – continue to provide a bridge between heaven and earth today. … Over a thousand years of history-  The earliest items date from the late Roman period and trace the evolution of the cult of the saints from the 4th century to the peak of relic veneration in late medieval Europe.

Relics featured in the exhibition include three thorns thought to be from the Crown of Thorns, fragments of the True Cross, the foot of St Blaise, the breast milk of the Virgin Mary, the hair of St John the Evangelist, and the Mandylion of Edessa (one of the earliest known likenesses of Jesus).

But the British Museum holds so much more than the few pound main exhibits, we did say we’d keep it free didn’t we?  So then I personally would suggest you get to the plunder~  Ah yes, the treasure, now that’s what we set out to conquer for!  Really though, do check out some of the treasure hoards they have displayed, the one from the Viking hoard, Vale of York.  There is the Sutton Hoo treasure, as well as the more recently discovered Staffordshire hoard from the Anglo-Saxons.  But if treasure doesn’t appeal to your sensibilities we haven’t even covered the well-established collections from the Egyptians upstairs in the museum.  It’s without a doubt, one of the best in the world, and the way it is displayed makes is just so easy to learn about each artifact.  The Rosetta Stone, the key to understanding all Egyptian hieroglyphics is there, it’s really quite easy to feel somewhat small standing next to it, it inspires a bit of awe.

There’s plenty from the Roman Britain age and also very well covered is Greek sculpture, the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon.  All in all far more than you can effectively soak up in just one day’s visit.  The British Museum is free, so it definitely qualifies for both students living in London and those relocating to London as a good family activity, though a 2 pound donation is appreciated and suggested.

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