Tuesday 21 May 2024

BLOG TOUR: Ghosts of the British Museum: A True Story of Colonial Loot and Restless Objects - Noah Angell

What if the British Museum isn't a carefully ordered cross section of history but is in instead a palatial trophy cabinet of colonial loot - swarming with volatile and errant spirits?

When artist and writer Noah Angell first heard murmurs of ghostly sightings at the British Museum he had to find out more. What started as a trickle soon became a deluge as staff old and new - from overnight security to respected curators - brought him testimonies of their supernatural encounters.

It became clear that the source of the disturbances was related to the Museum's contents - unquiet objects, holy plunder, and restless human remains protesting their enforced stay within the colonial collection's cabinets and deep underground vaults. According to those who have worked there, the institution is heaving with profound spectral disorder.

Ghosts of the British Museum fuses storytelling, folklore and history, digs deep into our imperial past and unmasks the world's oldest national museum as a site of ongoing conflict, where restless objects are held against their will.

It now appears that the objects are fighting back.

What did I think?

You don't have to believe in ghosts to enjoy this interesting book but it's good to have an open mind and I thoroughly enjoyed my virtual visit to the British Museum.  

I didn't realise the origins of the British Museum and I have to say that I am horrified.  It's actually quite staggering and eye-opening to think how many artefacts have been taken (stolen) from their rightful place over the years and it's heartbreaking to think how many of them are hidden away in storage and will never see the light of day.  No wonder the objects are distressed - I'm crying virtual tears for them.

There are eleven chapters in the book as Noah Angell takes us on a virtual tour of the British Museum.  Each chapter begins with a fabulous drawing of the particular object that is being discussed and explored.  I love Egyptian history, although I've never been fond of ogling mummies, so I loved the chapter set in the Egyptian Sculpture gallery.  It really gave me goosebumps.

Ghosts of the British Museum is an easy read as the chapters aren't too long and each one is interesting.  It's a sobering read that is as controversial as it is fascinating; it certainly doesn't make me proud to be British and I can't see it being offered for sale in the museum shop.  The British Museum won't want you to read this book but I think it's important that we do read it.  A recommended but uncomfortable read.

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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About the author:
Noah Angell is a writer and artist who works with orally transmitted forms such as storytelling and song. This work has led him to collaborate with the Polar Museum in the north of Norway, while working in North Carolina on a documentary film on gospel singer Connie B. Steadman, and in London, where he has collected testimony of the ghosts that haunt the British Museum. 

Born in the US, he was resident in London for over a decade and now lives in Berlin. This is his first book.

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