Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Visit to the Plunder Palace

Another day in London and another museum. This time it was the venerable British Museum, which my visit there led me to conclude is a bit of a misnomer.

No paintings of Sir Joshua Reynolds here. No manuscripts of Shakespeare on display. But if you're looking for sculptures that decorated the Greek Parthenon in Athens, this is the place to come. About half of those sculptures that are still in existence are on display at The British Museum.

The British Museum is a repository for "antiquities." Antiquities which the British collected during their swashbuckling, tail-kicking, take-no-prisoner days when Britannia ruled the seas. In other words, it's a plunder palace.

The British readily acknowledge this. As a plaque inside the museum explains, "the removal of the sculptures from the (Parthenon) has always been a matter for discussion, but one thing is certain, (this) action action spared them further damage from vandalism, weathering and pollution." In other words, it was necessary to loot the Parthenon in order to save it.

And you thought "The Spin Doctors" was an American Group.

On Saturday, my son and I took the one-hour journey north from London by train to the town of Oxford. There we were given a tour of the Oxford University campus by Barney McManigal, who is working on his PhD. at Oxford. If Barney's name sounds familiar to you, it's because he was a former reporter for the News-Press who covered county government and was fired, illegally according an administrative law judge, for being one of seven News-Press employees who participated in the freeway overpass demonstration.

Barney's pursuing his doctorate in political science and the topic of his dissertation is the policies in the UK and the US on stem cell research. (I know I'm oversimplifying it but there are limits on what a middle-aged, jet-lagged guy can absorb in terms of information.) And this is his second time studying at Oxford. Before going to work for the News-Press he got his Masters degree at the English University.

And I'm writing this post on Sunday evening as we ride the train that is taking us north to the city of Edinburgh in Scotland.

It will be my first time ever visiting Scotland. I hear that they make some pretty good whiskey there.

Photos from our trip are posted here.

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