Thursday November 7, 2002
We awoke somewhat early to set out on our Museum day. Our first stop was the British Museum – a place that when I began my journey back in Los Angeles, I really had no desire to see. I wanted to visit a museum here and there, but it wasn’t until I saw the BBC show on the plane over about countries wanting items from the British Museum back, that I decided to go out and see it. Thankfully on yesterday’s tour, Alan had pointed out where the museum was located, and thanks to our London map provided by the Concierge desk, we were able to figure out that it was only a few Tube stops away. London is such a large city, that it is easy to become disorientated. The last time I was here in 1996, I never really got a good feel for where things were in relation to each other. In reality, we could have easily walked to the Museum, but since we were going to be hopping all around London today, I felt we’d better buy an all day pass on the tube.
Arriving at Russell Square, we had a quick jaunt through the park. Once in the park, we came across a squirrel that kept following us around. It was very reminiscent of the albino cat from the Tiki Village Theater on Moorea. Once through the park, we had to find the entrance to the museum. Not wanting to go through the back entrance, we decided to hoof around, follow the tourists, and head for the grand entry. The main entrance to the museum is not unlike some great Greek or Roman palace, full of nice columns and a grand plaza out front. From there, it was into the museum and quickly into its showcase center. The Great Court was redone in 2000, and from what I can gather from the locals, it has really brightened up the place. The Reading Room, a massive library that famous people including the likes of Virginia Wolfe and Jules Verne have held library cards, dominates the area. We were set on visiting the most famous of the collections first so we were off to ancient Egypt and Greece. Our first stop was the famed Rosetta Stone. I just think that it is amazing that some random Disneyland cast member like myself can just walk up and look at such a famous artifact like I was going to pick out donuts at the local Krispe Kreme. For those of you who for some reason have no idea what the Rosetta Stone is, let me try and describe it. The stone was an artifact found in 1799 in the city of Rosetta in Egypt by some French soldiers rebuilding a fort. After many years of studying the Rosetta Stone and other examples of ancient Egyptian writing, Jean-Francois Champollion translated ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics in 1822. The stone features hieroglyphics, Greek, and demotic and using these Champollion put it all together. Needless to say it was all pretty impressive.
From there, we moved on to ancient Greece and what I consider one of the crown jewels of any museum – the Elgin (Parthenon) Marbles. Almost since they were removed, Greece has been asking for them back and have recently promised to put them into a spectacular new museum near the Acropolis. I am not going to take sides on the issue, but I knew that I wanted to see them when I got the chance since who knows what their ultimate fate will be. The display in the museum is very airy and full of light, and in the case of when we visited, full of school kids. Now, when I was in High School, I was stoked at the chance to visit the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Imagine having the opportunity to visit the Elgin Marbles. These Marbles originally were around the top of the Parthenon in Greece and were basically looted by Thomas Bruce, seventh earl of Elgin back in 1801-1810. There are many more classical Greek and Roman treasures located throughout the museum. After admiring the marbles, we set off to discover other areas of the museum. Along the way, we saw tapestries and even some table settings from the 1950’s. The Museum certainly has a lot of artifacts from different continents all over the world: more than the mind can hold in one viewing. Other highlights included actual mummies (making us wonder if it stunk inside of the cases – I can only imagine what it smells like in there), and another of the Museums controversial pieces, the Benin Bronzes.
The extraordinary bronzes of the Benin kingdom in what is now Nigeria exhibit a virtuosity and sophistication of style that has astonished the Western world since they were visited in the 15th Century. Their work was brought to Europe following a punitive expedition by the British in 1897, causing a great sensation. Basically, the British were ticked off about something and decided the best way to get back at the Nigerians were to take their bronzes. Although the Museum acknowledges that the bronzes are “booty” they have claimed that they were purchased by the museum legally and they have no plans to return them, even though they apparently sold some off as late as 1972.
After the bronzes, it was time to head over to Parliament and the London Eye. I did want to make it over to the Victoria and Albert Museum in the afternoon, so we opted to just pose for photos on the bridge across the river Thames and skip the London Eye. We hope to make it back here on Saturday and ride it at that time. I had wanted to get the photo of the Gorn and I with Parliament since I had neglected to get that picture back in 1996. Getting there required some creative transfers on the Tube and we ended up walking to adjacent stations on both the British Museum end as well as after the pictures on our way to the V&A. On our way to the St. James Tube stop, we stopped into the Westminster Abbey gift shop since we didn’t get a good chance to go over it when we were on the all day tour yesterday. Roger picked up a souvenir guide of the Abbey as well as some postcards. In the St. James Tube station, Roger admired some “Mind the Gap” boxers, but not heeding our Disneyland buying advice “If you see it, buy it – you will never know if you will see it again”, Roger opted not to purchase them.
It was then time for the Victoria and Albert Museum. I have to admit, after the British Museum, the V&A was quite the startling opposite. Full of great modern art as well as some Pop Culture exhibits! Roger and I spent some quality time in the Northern Europe Cast Court. For some reason, I really liked the fact that a major museum would have a whole section devoted to reproductions of famous architecture, sculpture and other works of art. Roger enjoyed the historical musical instrument section the best, especially all the pianos. I did enjoy another area of the V&A – the different rooms that each showed off how a typical room would be decorated throughout British history. It even had a few rooms with artifacts from the 60’s and 70’s as well.
After the V&A, Roger and I headed back to the hotel so that we could get ready to rendezvous with Kris again. Tonight, Kris was taking us to a showing of some of the pre-Hayes Commission films. We saw “Age of Consent”, and “10 Cents a Dance”. After the movies the three of us reflected upon what was going on in our lives at that point and each came up with an action items list that we dubbed the London Waterloo Accords.
(Editor’s note: Starting with this day, I am transcribing the diaries from a notebook discovered in August 2009, almost 7 years after this trip. Some of the details have been lost from time, and some have survived in the notebook. One thing I noticed: The London Waterloo Accords fell by the wayside in March 2003 when Roger and I went our separate ways. I am not sure if Kris managed to keep his end of the Accord up.)