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kottke.org posts about British Museum

The British Museum Is Full of Stolen Artifacts

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 13, 2020

The British Museum contains hundreds of contested items, the spoils of the British Empire’s reach (and smash n’ grab) across the globe. Some of the museum’s most popular and prized items are included: the Parthenon Marbles, the Rosetta Stone, and the Benin Bronzes. The countries from which these artifacts were taken are increasingly asking for their return.

Some of the world’s greatest cultural and historical treasures are housed in London’s British Museum, and a significant number of them were taken during Britain’s centuries-long imperial rule. In recent years, many of the countries missing their cultural heritage have been asking for some of these items back.

Benin City in Nigeria is one of those places. They’ve been calling for the return of the Benin Bronzes, hundreds of artifacts looted in 1897 when British soldiers embarked a punitive expedition to Benin. Many are now housed in the British Museum.

And it’s just the beginning. As the world reckons with the damage inflicted during Europe’s colonial global takeover, the calls for these items to be returned are getting louder and louder.

See also this piece from the NY Times: This Art Was Looted 123 Years Ago. Will It Ever Be Returned?

The British Museum Puts 1.9 Million Images Online for Public Use

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2020

British Museum Collection

British Museum Collection

British Museum Collection

British Museum Collection

British Museum Collection

As part of a website refresh, The British Museum has made over 1.9 million photos of its collections freely available to the public. Visitors to their online collections website can download images, and share & adapt them for non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license. Museum director Hartwig Fischer said of the refresh:

The British Museum Collection Online makes millions of objects accessible to the citizens of the world, wherever they might be. Whether you are a student, an artist, a scholar or are a lover of history and culture, this is an unparalleled resource to explore the richness, diversity and complexity of human history contained in the British Museum’s collection. It is also a platform where we can share the latest knowledge and research. We are delighted to be able to unveil this major revamp early, and hope that these important objects can provide inspiration, reflection or even just quiet moments of distraction during this difficult time.

Pictured above from the collection are the Townley discobolus, a drawing by Raphael, a Greek amphora, the Sloane astrolabe, and a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci. And pictured below are a print by George Cruikshank, a portrait of William Shakespeare, marble metope from the Parthenon, the Rosetta Stone, and Albrecht Dürer’s print of a rhinoceros.

British Museum Public

British Museum Public

British Museum Public

British Museum Public

British Museum Public

However useful the new online collection is, it must be noted that the ownership of several of the items in the British Museum’s collection — including the Parthenon Marbles & Rosetta Stone — is disputed.

For more large collections of images for public use, see also Paris Museums Put 100,000 Images Online for Unrestricted Public Use, Smithsonian Releases 2.8 Million High-Res Images Into the Public Domain, A Virtual Tour of the Van Gogh Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago Has Put 50,000 High-Res Images from Their Collection Online, and Met Puts Huge Digital Image Trove Online. (via ianvisits)

Banksy relics

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2005

Banksy strikes again, placing a stone relic with a cave drawing of a shopping cart on it into the British Museum.