My earliest memory of watching Around the world in 80 days is as a young boy in a classroom thinking what would I not do for a similar romp around the world. I have watched that movie again and again and even though it seems less and less politically correct every time I watch it , it still is a lot of fun. Watching it yesterday I was reminded of my recent 3 hour romp around the British Museum.

Working my way through the British museum is so much similar to a trip around the world. Each region of the world is represented across different time periods. The museum very helpfully gives you a set tour depending on how much time you have. My tour included a Ming dynasty vase, Samurai warrior dress, an Egyptian mummy followed by the world’s oldest board game from Mesopotamia. Each artefact more beautiful than the other, beautifully preserved, well displayed and documented. For once I didn’t even mind the crowds after all we are all fellow world travellers.

But in spite of the best efforts of the museum, my trip was far from a complete experience. Watching every object I could only wonder what it would be like in its original surroundings. I could only wonder what that beautiful Chola dynasty Nataraja would look like in the hot and humid environment of a Shiva temple in Tamil Nadu or that Samurai dress displayed in the house of the descendants of the Samurai clans and still worn on ceremonial occasions. The objects behind glass though beautiful and mesmerizing seemed dead and out of place in London. They are out of context and part of a fashion parade of objects from all over the world very much like animals in a zoo.

Of course a lot of these objects wouldn’t have survived had they not been carefully preserved in museums. But now that things have some what changed is there a case of returning these objects to where they are from so they could be seen in their proper context ?

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