The British Museum

A horrific visit, unlikely to be repeated. 

The British Museum was overfilled with many thousands of visitors populating every available surface of every room and corridor. The central courtyard housed hundreds of people, many of whom were sitting on the floor for lack of seating, available space or alternative sources of entertainment. The sound of the visitors echoed against the glass ceiling making it very difficult to hear any conversation held at a normal level. It was impossible to walk in a straight line so overwhelming was the crowd and I was concerned that the volume of people (in every sense of the word) would be frightening or overwhelming for Lily. As it happens, she took it in her stride more successfully than I did.

On to the slim list of positives. When we arrived at the museum the entrance queue spanned the fully length, and half the depth, of the building perimeter. The queue included perhaps two thousand people, or so. As we had pre-bought exhibition tickets which included a set entry time we were permitted to jump this queue. We were also excused the airport style security. Had these exceptions not been offered it is unlikely we would have continued with this perambulation.

The museum’s classical style entrance with columns and staircase is attractive to look at, but awkward with a pram. A small and unattractive lift is available, but was out of order, so Nephew E, Niece A and I carried Lily and her pram up the stairs.

We visited the Manga exhibition. This exhibition was very interesting, I knew very little about Manga in advance and learned a lot. The exhibition was installed in one large gallery with partition walls positioned to guide the visitor and portion off themed sections. It is useful sometime to be able to take Lily to a quieter area, or somewhere which is out of the way and ideally darker to lower input if she becomes overwhelmed. The Manga exhibition offered space and opportunity for this which was very welcome, particularly as the rest of the building was so over-populated. 

There was an opportunity to sit and read a small library of manga books and the colourful exhibits and videos made for a very attractive and entertaining space for Lily. It was also good to show her a culture and an art form from a different country and for her to hear a different language. At the end of the exhibition there was an opportunity to take a selfie, which was then transformed into manga style artwork. This was a fun and popular extra, which really helped us to feel a closer connection with the manga world and created a different sort of keepsake from the day.

It seemed a shame, while we were at the British Museum, not to visit at least some of the Museum’s key objects from the permanent collection. The Elgin Marbles, the Egyptian gallery and the Rosetta Stone at the very least. However, the majority of the museum was so overpopulated and awful that it was impossible to see anything properly or have the space or time to enjoy the objects or learn from them. So this ambition was abandoned.

It was also very difficult and unpleasant to use the bathrooms or the baby changing facilities. The queue for the ladies was twenty, or so, people long and the bathroom was down a flight of stairs making them impossible to access while accompanied by Lily and her pram. One of the disabled access toilets was out of order; the other was heavily in demand with a queue of wheelchair users outside. There was a baby changing room with two changing mats and a sink, but no toilet. The room was dirty, smelled bad and was also being used to store a mop and bucket (ironic). We left immediately.

This was not an enjoyable perambulation and we visited for only 1 hour, spending all of that time in the Manga exhibition. We travelled to the museum by car and parked in the car-park under Bloomsbury square. Parking is not too expensive if you book on line first and there is a lift, although we did need to carry Lily and her pram up one flight of stairs to street level.    

if you work for the British Museum please do get in touch – I would be happy to provide some support, ideas and advice on how you might improve your offering to young children and their parents. 

Changing facilities *

Access ***

Baby feeding facilities (including seating) *

Travel ****

Enjoyable Perambulation **

Overall **