Exploring London’s Museums

Living statues on the Thames Riverwalk in London, England
Living statues on the Thames Riverwalk in London, England

The Magnificent Museums of London

By Fj Napoleon

I had no idea many of London’s museums have free admission. Well almost free: since I’m somewhat gainfully employed, it was hard to walk by the “pay-what-can” box without donating a couple pounds. I even dropped a Canadian toonie into one.

And it’s not just small and out of the way museums either. Some of the world’s greatest collections are housed in London. The British Museum for example, holds the Rosetta Stone, a piece of inscribed rock discovered by one of Napoleon’s soldiers in the Egyptian desert. This rock was a valuable key to the decipherment of hieroglyphs from ancient times.

Among the British Library's huge collection is the four-storey glass tower containing the King's Library with 65,000 printed volumes, manuscripts and maps collected by King George III between 1763 and 1820. photo by FJ Napoleone.
Among the British Library’s huge collection is the four-storey glass tower containing the King’s Library with 65,000 printed volumes, manuscripts and maps collected by King George III between 1763 and 1820. photo by FJ Napoleone.

The museum also houses the Elgin Marbles a collection of magnificent Greek sculptures, inscriptions and architectural features from the Acropolis in Athens.

Across town in the South Kensington area is The Natural History Museum. As soon as I entered I was captivated by the huge Diplodocus dinosaur skeleton that dominates the main hall. It was only one of a dozen of such pre-historic casts throughout the grand rooms. Also in the ‘Giant’s Section’ is a two-foot thick slice from a sequoia tree with rings that date back to 557 AD.

Courtyard at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. photo by FJ Napoleone.
Courtyard at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. photo by FJ Napoleone.

On its edge, it stands as high as three men. If smaller things are more to your liking you will want to check out Darwin’s lab jars of snakes, starfish and other organisms preserved in alcohol. It’s no wonder why this place is often referred to as the cathedral of nature.

Just down the road a wee bit is another world-class museum, the
Victoria & Albert,
with a collection that spans some 5,000 years of art in virtually every medium. The courtyard lawn and wading pool was such a simple, clean and quiet place that I even took a nap in the afternoon sun.

Some of London’s other free museums include The National Gallery with works by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh. Across the Thames you will find The Tate Modern which houses works by Picasso, Rothko and Matisse.

The British Library, albeit mostly concerned with books also houses a permanent museum which holds priceless treasures like the Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta and hand-written lyrics by Lennon & McCartney.

Fab Napoleone.

FJ Naopleone is an award-winning writer and university instructor residing in Vancouver, Canada.

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