She was about eight. She was a model museum visitor – focused, quiet, staring intently at the Parthenon sculptures, not touching. Then she went over to her mother, sitting in the middle of the room, and asked, ‘But where are the marbles, Mum?’
The Reading Room was still open in 2006. Its books had been decanted to the new British Library, and a new old collection had taken its place. It was a popular exhibit; you could hear people looking through the lists of former presences on the wall and talking about names they recognised. Marx and Woolf, Kipling and Wells, Marie Stopes, Vaughan Williams. Staring at the reading tables. Sabine Baring-Gould, Stevie Smith, Roger Fenton, Sun Yat-sen… Talking, because there’s nowhere you need to be silent. It’s currently a formal temporary exhibitions space. Closed at last visit, between two shows, ‘Journey Through the Afterlife’ (the Book of the Dead) and ‘Treasures of Heaven’.