A little off base: A home for the past
November 14, 2007
LONDON — Though it can be hard to tell by the strip malls and cookie-cutter housing developments in the States, human civilization does extend beyond the inception of the U.S. of A. less than 300 years ago.
And while England’s cobblestone streets and aged cathedrals offer a glimpse into older humankind, our ancestors go back even further. And some of them survive in artists’ depictions.
Such as Surya, the Hindu sun god, carved out of limestone by his followers in the 12th century, built to last and chiseled to a mind-bendingly intricate degree. Its equivalent today would probably be sculpted with lasers out of industrial-strength plastic.
Such wonders of a world long gone are in abundance at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, located in the posh South Kensington neighborhood since its inception in 1852.
The museum holds more than 3,000 years’ worth of artifacts from a variety of cultures, according to the museum’s Web site. History buffs can peruse everything from Asian antiquities to British historical finds from recent centuries. There’s also a fascinating exhibit on Middle Eastern art from ancient times.
Best of all, the museum is free, asking only for a 3-pound donation at the door.
Exhibits of particular interest right now include “The Golden Age of Couture,” which takes visitors through the Parisian and British couture fashion craze of the 1940s and ’50s.
Another exhibition, “The Art of Drinking,” showcases vessels of all quirky varieties used throughout the years.
Some exhibitions charge a cover and range between 6 and 10 pounds for a day pass.
But there’s a ton to see in the free galleries, making the V&A, as it’s called, a great destination in and of itself, or a good place to kill a couple of hours in the midst of a London outing.
Museum staff offer informative guided tours, and lectures and classes on various art-related activities are also available.
Some folks just don’t get museums. “Eh, if I’ve seen one old stone, I’ve seen them all,” one might say. But looking deep into Surya’s limestone, aged eyes, and all the attending figures around him, history and our place on this planet tend to take on a whole new meaning.