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The British Museum and British Archaeology

  • Christopher Hawkes

To aid digestion of ANTIQUITY’S yeasty September Editorial, on our own and other national museums and archaeologies, I offer what follows as a chaser. ‘The British’, declared the Editor, ‘are a disgrace archaeologically’, because they have not bothered to insist on a first-class museum, at the centre, for their national archaeology and history. Other nations have, with results that can be splendid. They have the cultural patriotism; where is ours? It is not absent really. It is divided. In Wales and Scotland, primarily and rightly, it is Welsh and Scottish; and in Edinburgh and Cardiff, no less than in independent Ireland, there are admirable national museums. What then of the English? Why no ‘Bloomsbury marchers’, demanding and getting museum reform in London? In the English population, the archaeology-conscious proportion is among the largest in the world; but its loyalties are very largely regional. London is all very well, but you should see our county museum in Blankshire, or our town museum in Blankington, or our village museum in Little Blankworth! This English regionalism indeed must guard against disorder: that is partly what the Council for British Archaeology, with its Regional Groups, is for. But to call it a disgrace, when it is really our peculiar glory, will not help the cause of a national museum in London—nor, incidentally, the popularity of ANTIQUITY.

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In the last issue of ANTIQUITY some comments were made in the Editorial on possible reforms in the British Museum, and reference was made to remarks made by Professor C. F. C. Hawkes in his Presidential Address to the Council for British Archaeology (ANTIQUITY, 1962, 163–165). In this article Professor Hawkes develops his views on the role of the Department of British and Medieval Antiquities in the British Museum, and the place of the Museum itself in the modern world of British Archaeology.

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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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