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Book Review: British Museum Souvenir Guide (John Julius Norwich) : BH

Originally published by British Heritage magazine. Published Online: August 12, 2001 
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British Museum Souvenir Guide by John Julius Norwich, published by British Museum Publications Ltd., 46 Bloomsbury Street, London SW1B 3QQ, England. Tel: 0171 323 1234.

Well-known author John Julius Norwich says that the British Museum is an enormous building, and that 'many people visiting it for the first time find it daunting.' The purpose of his BRITISH MUSEUM SOUVENIR GUIDE, he reassuringly adds, is to make the museum easier to understand.

He accomplishes this by describing three tours, all of which can be fitted into a morning: The Ancient World, including Egypt, Assyria, Greece and Rome; The Western World, including prehistoric Europe, the Celts, Roman Britain, the Middle Ages, Clocks and Watches, and the Renaissance to Twentieth Century; and The Oriental World, including Islam, China, India, and Japan.

While you can view these in a morning, you might prefer to pick a favourite and take more time to appreciate it. The well thought-out paperback book contains colour-coded maps, excellent photos and, in just 40 pages, admirably conveys some of the museum's most exciting highlights. The guidebook cuts down on the confusion arising from the building's complicated layout in addition to giving some amusing anecdotes and history.

Norwich makes a point of saying that the museum offers a rolling programme of renewing galleries. He apologizes if any rooms mentioned in the guidebook are closed during a visit. I would go one step further and advise that you call ahead to make sure that your favourite artefact or gallery is available for viewing. (See p. 54).

I'd highly recommend that you purchase a copy of this guide before wandering around one of the most fascinating museums in the world. British Museum Souvenir Guide by John Julius Norwich, published by British Museum Publications Ltd., 46 Bloomsbury Street, London SW1B 3QQ, England. Tel: 0171 323 1234.

Gail Huganir



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