By Dan Metcalf, author of the Lottie Lipton Adventures
Bloomsbury, the area in London that is bordered by Euston Road and Holborn, has a rich history. It is synonymous with the Bloomsbury Group of course, the circle of writers that included Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes and EM Forster. The nearby Atlantis Bookshop was home to the occult meetings of The Order of the Hidden Masters, attended by influential Wiccan Gerald Gardner. Most importantly for me it is the home to Bloomsbury Publishing (also known in my house as Them-who-pay-the-bills). It it also home however, and has been for 250 years, to The British Museum.
When I first visited the museum as a child, I wondered around it as a sponge, soaking up information and images. I clearly remember the mummies, dried out in the desert sand, and the huge Chinese carvings which I got told off for touching. It wasn’t until I revisited the museum around twenty years later that I really got a sense of how important the building was and the work they do. Much had changed since my first visit. The grand courtyard had been enclosed by a towering glass roof. The British Library, who had been squatting in the museum since the early Seventies, had scuttled off to St Pancras. But for the most part, the exhibits were the same.
I find it immensely reassuring that in this ever changing world something so important can remain unchanged. I love that in twenty years or so I could conceivably meet up in London with my sons and take a look at the very same Rosetta Stone that I saw when I was just eight years old. London could be rebuilt ten times over and the British Museum would remain the same.
When it came to writing my set of books, The Lottie Lipton Adventures, I knew I wanted to set it in a museum. I had long loved to browse museums such as the Pitt Rivers in Oxford, the Bristol Museum and my childhood one in Torquay. When I saw the British Museum (the second time) I knew that it was where Lottie should live. I often explain to children whom I visit in schools that I would love to live in a museum (failing that, a library of course). I want to have access to all that history after the crowds have gone home, to ride my bike around the corridors and shuffle around the exhibits in my slippers.
The important thing about the museum to my writing was that it provided an endless source of material. While I weave in legends such as the lost eagle of the ninth legion or a hoard of gold looted from Roman London by Boudica, there are enough treasures in the 92,000m2 site to keep me going for several books more. Indeed, in the next two Lottie Lipton Adventures, The Catacombs of Chaos and The Eagle of Rome, I haven’t even scratched the surface of the contents of the museum. With over 8 million artefacts within its walls and ornate stone columns, I should have plenty of material to work with.
While I believe that the British Museum is a unique and important place, I know that it should not be taken for granted. It relies on donations and grants to keep going, and while visitor numbers show no signs of dropping, I for one am slightly wary of national treasures being sold off or shut down. After so many public libraries have disappeared in the last few years, I do not want our museums to be next.
Dear Mystery Lovers,
We all love a mystery, don’t we? Whether it’s discovering a four-thousand year old treasure or finding out who ate the last slice of bread in the house (it’s usually my Great Uncle Bert), we love to delve into a story and work out its secrets.
Which is where I come in!
The name’s Lipton. Lottie Lipton. Amateur Detective and Archaeologist Extraordinaire!
I’ve solved lots of mysteries and discovered tons of secrets, usually right under my nose in the British Museum. That’s where I live with my Great Uncle Bert and the caretaker, Reg. Oh, and Sir Trevelyan Taylor of course, but he’s a rotter and a stinker so we don’t talk about him. Mysteries and strange things keep happening and I’m the only one who can sort it all out.
For instance, once Sir Trev wanted to get rid of all the books in the museum, so I set out to search for The Scroll of Alexandria. If we found it then the books would be protected. It took some doing, I can tell you, and you can find out how it all went in the new book by my biographer, the esteemed Mr Dan Metcalf.
Another time, Uncle Bert had a real Egyptian mummy in the museum and I mistakenly set free the shabti, the little statues that were supposed to serve the mummy in the afterlife. They were mischievous little things! Mr Metcalf has written the whole story in The Egyptian Enchantment!
I love solving mysteries and if you do too, then you’ll find that my adventures are littered with codes, puzzles, riddles and clues for you to solve. They’re also packed full of facts; living in a museum I can’t help but pick up a few interesting tidbits here and there, and Uncle Bert is a mine of information.
I’ve got to go now – Reg is going to teach me how to fire one of the ancient crossbows from the weaponry collection (Shhh! Don’t tell Sir Trev!). I’ll leave you with a little code of your own to solve…
P.S. I’m going to leave you with a code. Can you guess what it is? Tweet me at @BloomsburyEd or email childrenseducation(at)bloomsbury.com if you think you know!
Jgnnq htqo vjg Dtkvkuj Owugwo! Hqt oqtg eqfgu, tgcf oa dqqmu pqy!
P.P.S. Here is when you can get your hands on my new adventures:
Hello! I’m writing this from the reading room in the British Museum in 1928. I understand that my adventures and tales of daring and bravery have been made into books by Mr Dan Metcalf. How exciting! I can’t wait for everyone to read them and see what fun we’ve all had.
But where are my manners? I haven’t even introduced myself. My name is Lottie Lipton. I’m nine years old and I live in an apartment in the British Museum with my Great Uncle Bert. He’s the Curator of Ancient Egyptian Artefacts and brought me to London after my parents died. They were archaeologists, and were killed when a tomb they were excavating in Cairo collapsed. I miss them of course but living in the British Museum is AMAZING! I can look at whatever exhibits I want, read any of the books in the library and I don’t even go to school. Uncle Bert teaches me everything I need to know and Reg, the old caretaker who lives on the grounds too, teaches me extra things like how to say ‘How much is it’ in twenty-five languages and how to pick a padlock.
Oh, and then there’s the adventures.
Strange things start to happen whenever I’m around. When you’re surrounded by thousands of years of world history, I suppose anything could happen. But these things are really strange. Like when a giant golden statue of an Egyptian cat came alive and ran away from its display case, or when we discovered the trail of clues leading to the legendary Trident of Neptune. I love a puzzle and always seem to find an adventure (or maybe they find me?).
Life would be perfect if it wasn’t for Sir Trevelyan Taylor, the Head Curator, trying to evict us from our home at the museum at every given opportunity. He’s got something against us living here, just because sometimes I leave my tea and toast balanced on an ancient priceless sculpture, or Uncle Bert manages to get lost in his own department (he’s a little absent-minded).
I really hope everyone enjoys my adventures, because I’ve had plenty more that Mr Metcalf has kindly written down for me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and investigate something. I’m sure I heard a bang from the Egyptian section. I hope it’s not a mummy come to life again!
TTFN (Ta ta for now),