The British Museum Is Now Open To Everyone: Take a Virtual Tour and See 4,737 Artifacts, Including the Rosetta Stone

rosetta stone

“I met a girl at the British Muse­um once,” a fel­low said to me at a par­ty last week­end. “Her name was Roset­ta. Roset­ta Stone.” A groan­er indeed, but also a reminder of how far we’ve come: where­as you once real­ly would have had to go all the way to the British Muse­um (in Lon­don) to run into good old Roset­ta, now you can get acquaint­ed with her, and 4,633 of the oth­er fas­ci­nat­ing arti­facts of human civ­i­liza­tion held there, with­out even step­ping away from your com­put­er.

The British Muse­um charges noth­ing for admis­sion, of course, but now the inter­net has freed it in the geo­graph­i­cal sense as well.

temple relief

“The British Muse­um recent­ly unveiled the results of its part­ner­ship with the Google Cul­tur­al Insti­tute (GCI),” writes Nation­al Geo­graph­ic’s Kristin Rom­ney, “the world’s largest Google Street View of an inte­ri­or space, cov­er­ing nine floors and 85 per­ma­nent gal­leries of the muse­um.” Have a vir­tu­al walk­through, and you’ll pass dis­plays of about 80,000 notable objects; the high­lights Rom­ney names include the Lewis Chess­men and cat mum­mies, the Elgin Mar­bles, and even archi­tec­tur­al fea­tures of the muse­um itself such as the “the yawn­ing expanse of the museum’s Great Court, the largest pub­lic square in Europe, with ear­ly morn­ing light fil­ter­ing through the 3,312 glass roof panes.”

royal game of ur

After you’ve enjoyed this Street View stroll, you’ll sure­ly want to exam­ine some of these items in greater depth. You can do just that at the vir­tu­al exhibits of the Google Cul­tur­al Insti­tute’s British Muse­um col­lec­tion, where you’ll find high-res­o­lu­tion images of and back­ground infor­ma­tion on 4,737 arti­facts, the Roset­ta Stone includ­ed. Or you can take a close look at a seg­ment of the Elgin Mar­bles, a scene from the Parthenon show­ing “the sacred robe or pep­los of Athena that was escort­ed to the Acrop­o­lis by the pro­ces­sion of the Great Pana­thenaic Fes­ti­val, held in Athens every four years.” Not old enough for you? Then behold the Roy­al Game of Ur, an ear­ly board game of sorts dis­cov­ered in the Roy­al Ceme­tery of the Mesopotami­an city-state of Ur. And even fur­ther illu­mi­na­tion of the ancient world awaits you beyond that, all thanks to this most mod­ern sort of project. You can enter the col­lec­tion here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Com­plete His­to­ry of the World (and Human Cre­ativ­i­ty) in 100 Objects

Vis­it The Muse­um of Online Muse­ums (MoOM): A Mega Col­lec­tion of 220 Online Exhi­bi­tions

The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art Puts 400,000 High-Res Images Online & Makes Them Free to Use

LA Coun­ty Muse­um Makes 20,000 Artis­tic Images Avail­able for Free Down­load

Rijksmu­se­um Dig­i­tizes & Makes Free Online 210,000 Works of Art, Mas­ter­pieces Includ­ed!

Whit­ney Muse­um Puts Online 21,000 Works of Amer­i­can Art, By 3,000 Artists

Google Gives You a 360° View of the Per­form­ing Arts, From the Roy­al Shake­speare Com­pa­ny to the Paris Opera Bal­let

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (12)
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  • Anthippi Fiamou says:

    Oh, yes. It must be great to see all those antiq­ui­ties Britain STOLE from var­i­ous places. The Roset­ta Stone is stolen, the Parthenon mar­bles are stolen and so on and so forth.
    Beau­ti­ful indeed!

  • George Nitsos says:

    Why have they not giv­en the arti­facts they looted/stole from Greece back to the Greek peo­ple? Instead they are on dis­play in Eng­land? No shame at all.

  • Alissa Clough says:

    Using instruc­tions from a craft book, I made a repli­ca of that game board out of wood., call­ing it “the hum­ble game of UR” (the orig­i­nal is styled “The Roy­al Game” and made of inlaid stone). It’s so famil­iar to me that it’s a shock to see the orig­i­nal on the Web!

    Who broke into my house and stole my board?

  • James S says:

    You may come to Greece both to see them in the very place they belong to and where they were made and at the same time enjoy sea, sunand cul­ture. What a com­bi­na­tion!

  • Markopoulou Maria-Irene says:

    The epit­o­my of steal­ing goods excuse: “I have stolen it because I want to look at it in my house when­ev­er I like…”.

  • Javier M says:

    Right now (and not to be Anglo-Cen­tric or an Anglo-Phile) I’m glad it’s at the British Muse­um and not in Greece or in Syr­ia or in Iraq. Where those Con­tries Eco­nom­ic woes or Polit­i­cal insta­bil­i­ties could ren­der a lot of these arti­facts as either stored-away or entire­ly destroyed.

  • Anonymous boi says:

    Idk why peo­ple are say­ing the arti­facts are stolen… Maybe they were bought from black mar­ket. Idk. But the rose­ta stone should be in france.

  • Anonymous boi says:

    No u

  • Anonymous boi says:

    -_-… No u…

  • WILLIAM KOLB says:

    You will be able to see them if you were to vis­it the muse­ums in the coun­tries from which the loot was tak­en. The Parthenon Gallery of the Acrop­o­lis Muse­um is far nicer than than the gallery in the British Muse­um where the Parthenon mar­bles are cur­rent­ly on dis­play. Per­haps Eng­lish peo­ple could instead enjoy their own her­itage in the British muse­um instead.

  • bienvenido andino villasante says:

    Roman Mosa­ic from s. IV d.C., téch­nic opus tes­se­la­tum, found in 1857 en Hali­car­nas, actu­al Bodrum/ Turquía, hoy Mº Británi­co, Lon­dres.
    ‘Hygía’- Health,
    ‘Zoé’ — Life
    ‘Chará’ Joy, charm
    ‘Eiréne’ peace
    ‘Eutymia,-good heart
    ‘Elpís’ ‑hope spir­its
    *Opus tes­sel­la­tum nor­mal tech­nique of Greek and Roman mosa­ic, made from tesser­ae that are larg­er than about 4 mm. … Opus tes­sel­la­tum is usu­al­ly used for back­grounds con­sist­ing of hor­i­zon­tal­ly or ver­ti­cal­ly arranged lines, but not both in a grid, which would be opus reg­u­la­tum (
    Ques­tion: a) Eiréne = Ἐιρήνη; writ­ten with n: not be V?……………….. Ἐιρήνη?
    b) Eutymia= εúθυμία wrot­ten with M: should it not be: μ as: εúθυμία /εú:good; θυμιος: heart
    Would love to know if I am wrong by my assump­tion.

  • Christos P. Tsonis says:

    The British have the moral oblig­a­tion to return the Mar­bles of Parthenon, that stole more than two Cen­turies ago, to Greece and demon­strate to the World that they are civ­i­lized and respect the his­to­ry and ancient mon­u­ments and arti­facts of oth­er Coun­tries. In oth­er words, Impe­ri­al­ism and Colo­nial­ism are things of the past.

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