The British Museum

252 Reviews

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Things to do


Date of travel

October, 2015

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Advance publicity made much of the Celts not really existing. Anything but, considering the items displayed in the exhibition at the British Museum.

We were there for 9.30 am: only the shops and what could be seen by walking through the Edward VII galleries to the Atrium were available. It was a bit like browsing alcohol shelves in a supermarket until a crocodile of Chinese students marched right through the building and out at the main portico. Was it a case of “been there done that” we wondered?

There were very few people about: it was almost eerie – the morning after the night at the museum. Half a dozen people joined us at the entrance to “The Celts” with one couple checking the time as though they were due elsewhere in the next few minutes. Then it was ten o’clock: unlike some exhibitions the few of us had the galleries to ourselves. A wonderful opportunity: we could really study the Janus-figure and the other carvings nearby.

Exhibits have been secured from a number of European countries. Whatever the cost of public admission – and our membership allows instant access as often as we wish without charge – it must be a lot cheaper than travelling to France and Spain, not to mention Denmark, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic among others. In such small numbers treasures such as the Gundestrup Bowl can be scrutinised at close quarters. There was also a replica of a chariot from a Yorkshire burial, similar to one we’d seen in France years ago.

Small items, including tools, weapons and jewellery, were well displayed. There are informative maps of the Celtic regions as well as DNA distributions within the British Isles. Even Asterix has a mention, since his phrase “By Teutatis” refers to a god actually worshipped by the Celts. Nor was he the only modern example. The later sections of the exhibition feature surviving or recreated characteristics of the Celtic peoples in the Basque country, Britanny, Ireland, Wales and Scotland. There is film of Bardic ceremonies (with an actual Bardic throne on display) and folk dancing and music from Celtic regions. We wondered how much time Welsh, Scots and Irish rugby fans had spent there gathering energy before their various journeys to the recent World Cup.

Neil MacGregor has achieved a great deal during his distinguished time as Director of the museum. With just one more exhibition to see before he retires, we can look back on many years of outstanding experiences and hope his successor can do as much in the future.


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