Worldcon Report 5: Museum Overload

by Brenda W. Clough

image Museum overload is easy. You just go to the British Museum. This is where Brits have been stashing loot for centuries. It is the entire Smithsonian in one building. Every time some Iraqi or Greek demands their toys back, the BM taps some local billionaire to add or revamp the exhibits and make them so magnificent no one could envision a change.

So sorry, Greece — I don’t think you’re getting the Parthenon marbles back any time soon. When last I was here they had the panels propped up on the floor, just the way Lord Elgin set them up. Today they have added a room at the back of the Ancient World wing in the exact size and shape of the ancient temple; all the carvings are lined up in order around the room. It is actually better than the original building because you can see them up close. It is unbelievably cool.

And we saw the Assyrian bull gods. And we saw the carvings of the sack of Lakshish in Mesopotamia. And we saw many curiously familiar statues and vases, which you yourself can see on the over of books and textbooks and volumes of Plutarch. And we saw the Rosetta Stone. And after that I had to be revived with a glass of high-octane cider and a ploughman’s lunch in the restaurant. Then it was on to the Sutton Hoo treasure and more Roman antiquities — I found a lovely silver dinner service to use at my hero’s wedding, and the bride is going to be puzzled at those backward swastikas on the platters.

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About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.

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Worldcon Report 5: Museum Overload — 7 Comments

  1. I experienced museum overload at 11. My grandmother showed me every museum in New York City in about a week, except the Cloisters (alas, I must go back!) because I broke down and asked to see a movie again just to sit down for a while.

    Then I became a Fine Arts major in college… 😉

  2. I’ve been going to the British Museum for years, and I still haven’t seen all of it.
    It’s a great place for writerly window-shopping: last time I went to pick some curiousities for my character’s shop, a list of valuable import goods and some plausible book titles.

  3. Then there’s the Victoria and Albert. When I went there in 1970, it was chaos, ancient and modern mixed together with barely a nod to theme, except perhaps the donor. The British Museum was a welcome relief of organization after that.

    Things may have changed in the last 40 years though.

    I have worked in a museum and I adore them. Mostly I like the little house museums or local community ones. Amazing treasures and peeks into previous life styles.

  4. I look at all the “looted” stuff in the British Museum and wince, and then I look at ISIL blowing up cultural monuments and wonder if looting is such a crime . . .

  5. You are not kidding, Jim.Those Assyrian bull gods simply cry out ‘graven image’. I am certain they would have been dynamited by nutbars long long ago. Better for them to be safe in London, adored by tourists. I would not hand them back to Iraq or Iran on a bet.

  6. I’m reminded of the scene in Jonathan Stroud’s The Golem’s Eye, where Bartimaeus tracks a mysterious and dangerous entity into the British Museum with hilariously disastrous results.

    He certainly made some poignant observations about cultural looting by imperialist forces.