Philobiblon: Behind the scenes at the museum

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Behind the scenes at the museum

I spent this afternoon in the company of some amazing objects, prime among them a 10.5m-long, broad and solid-looking boat. A Bronze Age boat. That's right, a boat well over 2,000 years old, hewn from a single massive oak.

What's more, unlike most such finds, which come out of bogs, so have spent much of their life buried, this came into the British Museum in the 19th century, when it was found being used as a bridge.

And it looks like a piece of old oak, maybe a couple of hundred years old.

The amazing thing is that no one has done any significant research on it, because there aren't the funds. The hope is one day an interested PhD student will come along ... sounds like a good idea to me!

Researching around it, I found there is something even more amazing in Dover, a sea-going Bronze Age boat. (Which I really have to see.) And the a pretty spectacular one from Fiskerton.

This was on a behind-the-scenes tour - I also saw the new icon room, of which the Prehistory and Europe Department (which is responsible for around two-thirds of the 6.5m - approx. - items in the museum). It is a brilliant setup in that the icons can be studied on slide-out trays, so that they don't have to be moved at all.

There's also a small but spectacular collection of European armour - including a helmet that consensus thought was probably of the Agincourt era (complete with the straw/raffia - not sure of the proper term - padding).

... Then back to reality. I spent an inordinate amount of time in the post office trying to post the Christmas stuff. You have to wonder, are they trying to put themselves out of business?


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