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  • Huge and imperious, the British Museum stands before you with a Greco-Roman facade forcing a comparison of empires. The phallic, white columns assert their dominance over us: the small visitors, the conquered. Inside you are lost among the hundreds of others. School groups giggle at Greek nudity or reluctantly trudge past hoards of ancient weapons. Clumps of tourists stick together, speeding through rooms so they can see it all before lunch. University students spend hours in just a couple of rooms.

    Whoever you are, you are overwhelmed. Most of the things that survive for so long are the riches, the jewelry and decorative pots. This paints a skewed picture of a colorful and glorious past. But what are you really looking at? A vast majority of the items in the museum are from other lands, stolen by colonialists as they sought to build the largest empire on earth.

    Why, then, is it called the "British" Museum? Now that the empire is over, shouldn't they be ashamed? Should they have to return these artifacts to the countries from which they originated? Or does the fact that many were acquired through imperial conquests make those artifacts part of British history? The museum is free and in the largest city in Europe, so wouldn't that imply that anyone can visit?

    Either way, this place is one to experience. Not once, but over and over. In bits and pieces. With reflection.

    The sun may have set on the British Empire, but here the lights remain shining, silent through the night.
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