It can be difficult to get far beyond where I am, I listen…. I hear the shadows of time uncaught by the sundials, Murmuring about the universe’s life cycle.
I haven’t decided yet of where to lay the frontier between what is real and what is imaginary, Because I just want to say “hello” to the unknown. Where were we before we were born? Were we? Where does the soul live?
Our heads have been nodding together through the thousands of years, Our concept of matter remains unchanged, Atomic events are hovering in the container that is our body and soul, Trying to balance between finite and eternity.
I am part of the single, fragile human family, I believe in light and sparkles, I defy the soul-matter corroding glorification of human life, For energy, time, matter, all brought together, surpass us all.
If you are in London and a history lover, this is a place that you must visit. I went in a summer afternoon and I wish I took the whole day, because the museum is so large and so interesting. I think it’s one of the greatest museums in the world!
Do not expect the museum to be on a big street, it isn’t! Its location is not on a little street either (as it’s Picasso’s museum in Barcelona), but it’s not placed on a big avenue. I used my Google maps to find it.
The address is Great Russell St, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom.
When you get there, there will be a line. They, of course, do security screenings and your belongings will be scanned as well as you. But the line goes fast, you wont be there for an hour; the wait is nothing like the wait for some Disney rides :).
The museum is open daily 10.00-17.30. Open late on Fridays until 20.30.
The museum is free, but there are some collections that you have to pay for (if you would like to see them!). I suggest purchasing an audio guide (there is a place to rent these, as you get in the big hall).
This picture show part of the big hall, after the entrance
The guide is very useful if you don’t have anybody else to explain the different exhibitions and to give you a tour. I used it not only to learn about the exhibitions, but also to learn about particular objects that interested me. You see, each display case has a number. If you click on your audio guide on that number, it will tell you a lot more than the written explanations on the displays (if any).
A bit of history
The British Museum was established in 1753. It first opened to the public in 1759 on the site of the current building. So yes, it’s that old! In fact, the British Museum is the oldest museum in the world!
The museum started with the collections of the Irish physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane. He was a London-based doctor and scientist who married the widow of a wealthy Jamaican planter. He did not wish to see his collection broken up after death, so he bequeathed it to King George II. At that time, Sloane’s collection consisted of around 71,000 objects of all kinds. But since 1753 the collection grew to 8 million objects.
One of the funny facts about the British Museum is that it has been home a lot of cats over the centuries. They say that the most famous guard at the British Museum was a cat :). The cat name was Mike and he patrolled the gate from 1909-1929. When he died, the museum staff mourned him and his obituary was featured in TIME magazine.
The British Museum is popular in the entertainment industry. You might not know but many movie scenes were filmed here. The first movie scene ever shot in the Museum was for The Wakefield Cause, in 1921. Blackmail, by Alfred Hitchcock was also shot here and so were scenes from the Hollywood masterpiece, Day of the Jackal. Most recently, the museum was featured in the movie Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014).
Three of the most popular exhibits at the British Museum are the Oxus Treasure, the Rosetta Stone, and the Elgin Marbles.
What I liked
HM!!! I am going to talk about only what I have seen, because I didn’t get a chance to visit all!
I stopped in front of the Rosetta Stone for a while and I imagined all these people making the inscriptions. What was it like then? Who were these people? They sure left us something so we can understand them.
The Rosetta Stone has ancient hieroglyphs carved onto it and its discovery was instrumental to the translation of Ancient Egyptian writing. The stone is dating from 196 B.C. .
The Egyptian Galleries, Room 4
This room houses sculptures and artifacts from about 3,000 years of ancient Egyptian civilization. The exhibition is magnificent. The gallery is located next to the museum’s main entrance.
Room 4 is one of the largest exhibition space and it display only 4% of its Egyptian holdings. That is because it is the place for monumental sculptures…and when I say monumental I really mean it. Everything is gigantic…
This is the colossal statue of Amenhotep III also known as Amenhotep the Magnificent, was the ninth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Look at how small people look in comparison to it…
And this is the head of the same Pharaoh Amenhotep III. This statue is dating from around 1370 BC…
This is a giant bust of Rameses II, also known as Rameses the Great. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the New Kingdom. This is why his successors called him the “Great Ancestor”.
Standing in front of these statues made me think about these people in real life like. What was it like to be a Pharaoh? What is amazing? : ).
And there are so many other great things in this room…….but I should’t put up more pictures. You just go and see : ).
The Elgin Marbles, the department of Greece and Rome
The Parthenon Marbles, the Elgin Marbles are a collection of medieval, marble Greek Sculptures. These sculptures were brought to Great Britain in the early 1800s by the Earl of Elgin, who acquired them from the Parthenon Temple in Athens.
These sculptures were part of the Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens, built between 447 and 438 B.C.
This exhibition is extraordinary …..large, many mummies. It is situated on the 4th floor.
I was looking at these mummies and I was thinking what life would have been like along the River Nile several thousand years ago. It does not take an effort of imagination to conjure back the ancient times. People, like today, believed in afterlife and the mummification was an extraordinary funerary tradition of preparing the body for the afterlife.
They also have the pictures of the CT scans of the inside the mummies’ coffins.
I was humbled while reaching the mummy of the Gabelein man. Humbled by being a human, in front of another person that exited so long ago and that now is on display in a museum….
They named this mummy “Ginger”. They said he is called this way because of his….red hair? He is placed in the fetal position which was the most common form for Egyptian burials of the time.
What I would do when I will go again
I would map the exhibitions, because I went in blind and not knowing even the floors where certain exhibitions were. This place is massive and it helps knowing where what you’re interested in is located.
I would go there earlier, not late afternoon. You can spend so many hours in the museum…
I would read more in advance about certain pieces. The mummies, the Elgin marbles and the Egypt exhibitions I have seen are so amazing and I would want to know more before I stand in front of these pieces.
Dream on, friends, Dream about the things you want to do, Dream about the feels you want to feel. I have no natural sixth sense, But I too, dream constantly.
How many great ideas have I got, That I just knew were going to make a difference…. How many dreams have I got, About my life, about my love….about everything…
Sometimes I see the future, As maze of tunnels highlighting the ways to different places, Which way do I take? What do I really want to do ….for now….forever?
I’m unsure, say the ghosts of my mind. I’m unsure, I hear a lot of young voices, I’m unsure, I hear older souls. It’s ok to be unsure! Don’t fret, don’t bite your nails as you write your bucket list. But write it and instead of writing “I will…one day” for your to dos Write “I will, today” at least for one.
Dreams are like clouds dancing in the horizon, Don’t just watch, they’ll dissipate…… You got to fly to them, fly though them, You may feel the turbulence, feel the rough air gliding, But place the faith in you and push the limits further.
Remember the childhood? When we were all pure and lively spirits Living in the moment? We can still do what our hearts desire, So no more waiting for something to happen, Dreaming is beautiful and necessary, But pointless if you don’t try to turn it into reality, Wake up….
You are not perfect but nobody is, Everybody is chipped in some way, isn’t it?
Leave aside all people who are making lists of yes and no, Of good and bad, of worth and not worth. Perhaps I should tell you something of what is happening: Captivating stages of life, Are catching you becoming. From the young one, To the interesting, to the self-assured, You’re undoubtedly moving, Through the unexplained and unpredicted, Through idleness and excitement, Beating the drum in the rhythm of life.
Your only jailers are the attitudes or concepts you imprison yourself with, Not people! No locks can hold you from becoming you everyday. So sing a song and plant your dreams. Stop looking at me like that, Your cocked quizzical eyebrow makes me smile. Sing with no voice if you want, But still sing, Your dreams and then you, Will grow faster and taller if you sing from your heart.
Last night we were at the mall. It was past 7, it already got dark and but the artificial light was bathing this little place of the world with its sweet honey color. We were seating on a bench, waiting for a dinner table. We didn’t make dinner reservations and there was a waiting list. It was a beautiful night, calm, people were walking, kids were playing.
And then I saw her.
An older lady, in her late 70s or she might have been 80. I cannot accurately guess her age. She was elegantly dressed, all black, black pants and a black long sleeve top. She was wearing heels, not high but mid heel pumps. Over her black top she had a big piece of costume jewelry necklace. Her white hair was short, puffy, a bit like Jane Fonda. It was beautifully styled. I think it took a good 3-4 minutes as she walked past us. My heart broke and I’m not sure why. It is maybe because I saw it in her eyes or maybe because I felt that she was alone.
Me and my family had dinner and a great time, I forgot all about it. But then, at night, her image came back. I thought about her, I thought about myself and I thought about us people. I thought about the journey of life and about what we understand while doing it.
Thinking and perceiving
Nietzsche once said that:
“No one can construct for you the bridge upon which precisely you must cross the stream of life, no one but you yourself alone.” Nietzsche
I am thinking…… Alone. But how alone are we? How much of me do you see and how much of you do I see? Do you see me the way I see myself? Do I see you the way you see yourself?
I don’t really know the answer. I do not want to engage solipsism or what other philosophical views are on this subject. I want a practical perspective.
Communication and understanding
Back to my old lady in black. What did I see? I saw grace, beauty, old age, her alone feeling. It truly broke my heart, because this was my image of her. In trying to process what I saw through my own lenses I applied to her my self-avowals and self-ascriptions.
But what if talked to her? Maybe the way I had perceived her would have stayed the same. But also, I might have found out that what I saw was not truly who she was. Maybe she had a family, maybe she had a full life and she was happy.
The way we see is not always the way others see. We all have our own truths. We all want to live in a happy world, but we each have our own definitions of happiness.
Do you see me the way I see myself? Do I see you the way you see yourself? These are questions that we should all think about. In the light of so many social problems, of so many differences in our society, on matters of gender, ethnicity and so many other differences, we should try to understand “otherness”. We are all prejudiced and have our own stereotypes. Some less then others, but we do have them, because who we are is conditioned by our experiences.
I do not know what kind of social structure will best facilitate happiness, but we are all together on this planet. Regardless of how singular our carapace of a body makes us, we are connected into something bigger. If we talk and try to understand each other, then we will live better…..and maybe when feelings of alone will hit, you will find the comfort of all these people around you, who are all the same: alone but together.
Lee Miller, Self-portrait (variant on lee miller par lee miller), c. 1930.
Miller was born in 1907, in Poughkeepsie, New York. Old fashion, old style! Most of us didn’t live during these times, when this woman was a fashion icon. Most of us didn’t hear the rattle of gun and didn’t feel the fear of war. But she did and she led a life that many times was out of the comfort zone of regular people. She knew how to wear elegant clothes and also muddy boots. Her photography has informed the world about the horrors of WWII and has also inspired fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen, Gucci’s Frida Giannini and Ann Demeulemeester.
Why am I writing about her?
Because I was inspired by her metamorphosis, from a young girl that had a career in modeling, to an accomplished photographer and then to a war correspondent. Because I appreciate the bravery of a human, male or female, who is able to get out of his comfort zone to do things that would make a difference in our world. Because I like photography and because maybe not many people know that she was a part of the Surrealist movement, just as much as Man Ray, who is considered the pioneer of it.
Her father’s daughter, New York and Vogue
Her father was a bricklayer son. He was of German descent and his own passion was photography. He decided that his daughter was the perfect model and he photographed her since babyhood. He taught her about the technical aspects of photography. They had a close relationship and some say that this is perhaps why she didn’t hold long relationships with other men….
At 19, she became employed by Vogue. She was one of the most sought – after models and she was challenging the stereotypical images of women in the society of that time.
Her photo was used in an advertisement for Kotex menstrual pads and it was the first time that the image of a human being was employed for such a product. Needless to say that the ad ruffled a lot of feathers given the lack of permissiveness of the times. It is funny to look at the above photography now and think about the reactions that it caused back then.
Paris and Surrealism
In 1929 she travelled to Paris to meet Man Ray, a surrealist artist and photographer. She turned up at his table at Le Bateau Ivre café and she became his apprentice and lover. Together they lifted photography to surrealist art. They discovered the technique called “polarization” which then became Man Ray’s trademark( this is the overexposure of the photographic film in the camera through which you give photos a ghostly, glowing look). If you want to know more about this technique here is a link : how to solarize photos.
They worked three years together and they took extraordinary photos of each other. She became Man’s obsession and even if he photographed countless celebrities (among which are Wallis Simpson, Virginia Woolf, Picasso, Chanel) she was the one that was his muse. In their pictures of each other, you can see their erotic connection.
Lee and Man together
LEE MILLER PORTRAIT, 1930 BY MAN RAY
Between New York, Egypt and Paris
Jealousy broke Miller and Man apart. She moved to New York during the Depression era and she started a business with her brother Erik. Here she fell in love with a rich Egyptian, Azis Eloui Bey. He came to NYC to buy equipment for the Egyptian national railway. They got married and together they moved to Cairo.
Lee Miller: Oasis village, 1936, Egypt; photo in the archive of George Dunkley
Here she took some of her most striking black and white photography. This above photo is one of them.
But I guess her wanderer spirit could not be tamed. By the end of the decade she will separate from Aziz and move to London. Here she’ll meet the love of her life, Roland Penrose.
London and WWII
I think what shines about her is her work and courage. In London, while married to Penrose, Miller embarked on a new career in photojournalism as the official war photographer for Vogue.
Unafraid, she took pictures of many important events during the war.
If you remember from one of my previous articles about St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of the worst things that happened to London and Britain during the war was the Blitz. This was a campaign of bombing (almost daily bombing!) of London and Britain by the Germans.
Miller was there, with her Surrealist eye. She brought the tragedy of destruction in front of people’s eyes. If you see her photos, you can feel her empathy for the ones suffering, you can feel her compassion for the destruction that was going around. Her pictures were featured in Vogue asa way to show the American public the terrible tragedy Britain was enduring and also in the hope to influence the United States to enter the war.
I can’t bring myself to put many of her war photographies here, because they are sad. But, here is one of a bombed chapel.
Besides photography she also did combat journalism, sending cables from the most dangerous places.
She reported from St. Malo, which was garrisoned by German troops. This was a vital point for Germany’s defense along the Atlantic coast. While it was heavily bombarded by the Allies she violated the terms of her accreditation as a woman journalist and of course, covered the combat. As a consequence, she was later put under house arrest by the US army, but she was again not deterred to go cover further battles.
She went to Buchenwald and Dachau, two German concentration camps. The thought of these places makes my body hair rise and makes my body feel cold.
She also reported from the 44thEvacuation Hopital, Normandy, after D-Day.
Miller was the first person to enter Hitler’s Munich apartment as American forces were liberating the city. Here is a photography of her in his bathtub. Notice her muddy boots soiling the Hitler’s pristine white bathmat.
After the War, Miller suffered from what now might be recognized as PTSD, drinking heavily and retreating into depression. She lived in the UK with her husband , Penrose, and son. She died from cancer in 1977.
Her story inspires. I am inspired by her courage to be there in a war zone. I am inspired by her strength in the face of adversity, by her quest for truth and justice. Having worked with Syrian refugees myself, as I have a book project on the back burner, I have a glimpse of how emotionally difficult it is to be there for people that have lost close to everything. I hope that day by day, we all become better and we do our bit to make a good change in this world.