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Free Exhibits to See at the British Museum

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by Bastion Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published December 25th 2013
Exhibits You Don't Have to Pay For

The British Museum generally showcases two types of exhibitions. First are the collections from their permanent exhibits. These include statues and architecture from ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece. These are free to visit, and on my first time there, I spent a good long while admiring everything on show. After you have been once or twice, however, seeing the same old same old over and over again does start to get a bit boring.

That's where the special exhibitions come in. These are only temporary, and you have to pay to get in. I once went to an exhibition about the Egyptian Book of the Dead, but despite my interest in Ancient Egypt, there are only so many pieces of papyrus you can look at before getting tired of it all. I felt like I'd spent my money on something I would rather not have bothered with. As a result, I tend not to go to exhibitions you have to pay for now; they're so hit and miss.

I have recently discovered, however, that The British Museum has a third type of exhibit; a happy medium between the two. These exhibits are temporary, but free to visit because they are so much smaller than the main exhibits. Sometimes it is just a showcase of one or two items. It is probably not worth the trip to see just one artefact, but what is handy about these exhibits is that there are several running at the same time.

You can put a mismatch of all different topics together, and see the equivalent of a full length gallery. Sounds like a good way to expose yourself to some culture and learning without the expense. There are five such displays on at the moment:

Works by Frank Auerbach
Until 8th January

Frank Auerbach was a portrait and landscape artist who worked in pencil. Ruth Bromberg once commissioned him to do a portrait of her, and as a result, they became close friends. Bromberg was able to amass a large collection of Auerbach's work, including his nude drawings from the 1950s. She is now sharing this collection, to be displayed at the museum.

Perfect Timing
2nd February

This display focusses on the Mostyn Tompion clock, which is considered the finest creation made by London's greatest clockmaker, Thomas Tompion.

The clock celebrates to William III and Mary II coronation in 1689, and is so good at timekeeping that it only needs to be wound once a year. The exhibit marks the three hundredth anniversary of Tompion's death.

Sutton Hoo
Until Mid February

The Sutton Hoo gallery is currently being refurbished, so as a stop gap measure, a small collection has been brought out for view. It highlights artefacts from 300-1100AD, extending from Spain to the Black Sea and from North Africa to Scandinavia.

Wise Men from the East
27th April

Exploring Zoroastrian traditions from Persia, the display features ancient coins Mughal India, elaborately painted tiles, and other objects that provide insight into the religion.

A Middle East Menagerie
Until 18th May

A collection of artefacts selected by the curator from the British Museum's Islamic collection. The theme highlights animals and Islamic art.
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Why? Learn something interesting
When: Until 18th May
Phone: 44 (0)20 7323 8299
Where: British Museum
Cost: Free
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