“I was eating salad” was seen outside a London Pub near the British Museum with the introduction London Pride – Because no great story ever started with – I accept the challenge.
Let me start by saying that this British Museum is an amazing place which I feel privileged to visit. Instead of travelling to every continent, visiting hundreds of places, you can find here, distilled and kept safe, the story of humanity displayed and available for free view.
My friend Rod LeFlea replied “bunch of thieves” to my Facebook post about my visit. I sympathise. Anyone with knowledge of aboriginal heritage knows of the century long struggle to reclaim aboriginal bodies and parts (like skulls) “collected” for study and untouched in dusty drawers far from their country. Similarly, the Greeks want their marbles back, even if Lord Elgin had permission to save them from vandalism. The Egyptians know that more than 50% of the Pharaonic art works also sit in London rather than Cairo.
How did all this “stuff” end up here then. it was called the Age of Enlightenment.
Sir Joseph Banks was one of the thousands of highly educated middle class gentlemen who swarmed across the Empire collecting and classifying and returning to England with the idea that what they were doing was an important addition to the ultimate study – that of mankind itself. Banks was of course, the naturalist who accompanied James Cook on the trip that established and mapped the East Coast of Australia. He returned and, for the rest of his long and productive life, supported the colonisation of Australia and continued to collect Australiana.
Banks was just one of many such men. The writer, historian Bill Bryson considers that this group of middle and upper class men, educated but without the need to “work” revolutionised knowledge – in a day before professional scientists, they built the base from which today’s information rich society emerged.
Rod I think you are right, they were a bunch of thieves but I am grateful for the treasure trove they have kept safe and left to be still wondered at today.