International Museum Day
The 18th of May is international Museum Day and we wanted to celebrate by putting together a list of our 5 favourite museums across the world. You may feel there are a few surprises but the list is made from our personal favourites rather than what is commonly thought of as the top 5 eg the British Museum or the Smithsonian. These are the museums that have given us the most pleasure and best memories on our travels. Do you agree with them or have you your own to share?
Egyptian Museum – Cairo
The 115 year old Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, commonly called the Egyptian Museum, is situated on Tahrir Square (made famous as the centre for Egyptian pro-democracy demonstrations during the Arab Spring) in Downtown Cairo. It is home to an extensive collection of over 120,000 pieces of ancient Egyptian antiquity. Over the two main floors you will see some of history’s most important ancient Egyptian artifacts including the celebrated treasures of Tutankhamun and his iconic gold mummy mask.
Why we love The Egyptian Museum
We love this museum because of it’s character. Viewing so many important pieces housed in old wood and glass cabinets in a building over 115 years old which seems to creak under the weight of artifacts and visitors is itself like stepping back in time. To the first time visitor is seems chaotic, unorganised and confusing, very much like Egypt itself! But also like Egypt there is a lot behind first impressions that is well worth discovering.
Hire an expert guide to walk you through the museum and help make sense of the displays and where they sit in time. Some of the most fascinating and rarest artifacts in the museum are also the smallest and easily missed without a guide.
Robben Island – Cape Town
Robben Island is five miles off the coast of the Southern tip of Africa and surrounded by the strong currents and shark infested waters of the Atlantic Ocean. It is easy to see why it made an ideal location for a prison for the Dutch, British and South African governments over the centuries. Since the 17th century it has been used as a military barracks, leper colony and a place to hold political prisoners, none more famous than prisoner number 46664 – Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 of his 27 years incarcerated on the Island.
Why we love Robben Island
This is a living museum and unique in the way that rather than viewing objects the history is told through the many guides and museum staff that are ex-prisoners and bring the modern history of the prison and apartheid system to life through their own experiences.
Read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography “A Long Walk To Freedom” before visiting the museum.
Terracotta Warriors – Xian
Xian is the start of the silk road and home to the Terracotta Soldiers of China’s first emperor – Qin Shi Huang who famously unified China around 221bc. In preparation for his death he constructed a city sized mausoleum, a project that involved 700,000 workers, to be his kingdom in his afterlife. And to protect him after his death was an army of 8000 soldiers, close to 700 horses and 130 chariots made from the local clay.
Why we love The Terracotta Army
We love the story that until 1974 nobody was aware of this very important site until two farmers started digging a well in a local field and discovered the first fragments of the warriors. We also love that each soldier is life size and has different facial features modelled from soldiers from the time which eerily brings the past to life.
Miss the crowds by getting to the museum early when it opens at 8:30am. The site can get incredibly busy from around 10:30am when a majority of visitors arrive after having breakfast in Xian
Te Papa – Wellington
The museum of New Zealand overlooking the incredibly pretty bay of Wellington has been founded on principles around diversity, partnership and collaboration of indigenous and non-indigenous New Zealanders. The collections of historical pieces and artwork provide an excellent narrative New Zealand’s history and culture that will only improve your understanding of this beautiful country.
Why we love Te Papa Museum
This a a real gem of a museum with it’s modern and clever way it displays it’s collections and even has a focus on the future. With it’s outstanding scenery and natural beauty it’s easy to miss New Zealand’s history and culture, this museum tells a really interesting story that will enhance any trip to the country.
Many visitors to New Zealand skip Te Papa to their Don’t miss this site off your New Zealand itinerary and allow enough time, at least half a day, to visit the museum.
War Remnants – Ho Chi Minh City
Housed in the former United States Information Agency building, an agency set up to promote USA national interests by influencing and informing local populations, the war remnants museum exhibits relate to the First Indochina War (French colonists) and the Vietnam war with America. A word of warning though the stories told are very one sided and exhibits contain a lot of anti American propaganda.
Why we love The War Remnants Museum
While the museum shows a distorted view of the war, one that is very anti-American / colonist it does at least show a different side to the Hollywood versions that you may be used to. If you can see through the propaganda and view the exhibits of weaponry, images and stories for their historic context it really helps you to understand the relatively young nation of Vietnam.
Take the propaganda with a pinch of salt but try to read between the lines to get a view of Vietnam and it’s people.
Do you agree with our choices? What are your top 5 museums?