Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Petrie Museum

The oddest museum I have ever visited is The Petrie Museum, a London museum that houses one of the world’s largest and most important collections of Egyptian antiquities.

The Petrie Museum is property of University College, London, and is housed on the second floor of a university library.

The museum is not easy to access. One must first locate the library, and then the library entrance, and then the narrow stairwell within the library that leads upstairs to the museum. The entire process of accessing the museum is Dickensian.

The museum occupies three rooms, all crammed with display cases separated by the narrowest of passageways.

If more than fifteen persons were to visit the museum at one time, the effect would be akin to rush hour at Grand Central Station. (I question whether there is enough oxygen in The Petrie Museum to sustain fifteen living persons.) When we, a party of five, visited The Petrie Museum on September 11, 2007, there were three other visitors in the museum—and all eight of us kept stumbling into each other for the duration of our visit.

Only a small portion of the collection—over 80,000 Egyptian artifacts—is on display at a given time. The artifacts are identified with aged typewritten note cards that look as if they, too, had been created in Ancient Egypt. Since the display cases do not feature lighting, visitors must pick up flashlights mounted on a wall between rooms one and two if visitors are to be able to peer into the various cabinets, drawers and display cases and actually VIEW the artifacts.

For years, The Petrie Museum has planned a move into its own purpose-built building. When we visited the museum in 2007, that year was supposed to be the final year in which the museum was to occupy its ancient, musty space. The new building was expected to be ready for occupancy in 2008. (However, when Andrew and Alex visited The Petrie Museum in 2004, THAT year was supposed to be the final year in which the museum was to occupy its ancient, musty space.)

As of today, February 28, 2012, The Petrie Museum continues to occupy its ancient—and totally uninhabitable—premises.

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