The British Museum is the oldest, and one of the largest museums in the world. Where else can you see some of the greatest treasures of all time under one roof?
Here you can see at first hand The Elgin Marbles, The Portland Vase, The Lewis Chessmen, The Sutton Hoo Treasure, to name only a few of the wondrous collections awaiting you.
You will be fascinated by the Egyptian Mummies, and inspired by the superb exhibition of prints and drawings which changes several times a year. Allow plenty of time for your visit - the British Museum is a vast storehouse of treasures. Better still, why not visit several times, concentrating on just one exhibit each time?
An Act of Parliament
In 1753 theBritish Government of the day bought the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, a wealthy Doctor who practised in Chelsea. The collection consisted of over 80,000 curios including fossils, plants, coins, medals and prints. This unlikely assortment formed the beginning of what has become certainly the biggest, and probably one of the best museum collections in the world.
An act of Parliament established the British Museum as the world's first public museum. The Cottonian Library formed by the Harleys, Earls of Oxford, was immediately added to the collection.
In 1757 George II presented The Royal Library to the museum. In 1823 George III conferred on the museum the right to a copy of every book printed. This right continues to the present day.
By the 1800s, with the acquisition of enormous quantities of antiquities, artefacts, discoveries from all over the world and many bequests, it became apparent that more space to house the ever growing collection was essential.
Awe Inspiring Expansion
In 1823 Robert and Sydney Smith submitted their designs for the new purpose built British Museum. The work was carried out over the next thirty years and what emerged was one of London's most awe-inspiring buildings.
Designed in the Greek revival style, this magnificent building has an Ionic colonnade and portico complete with pediment frieze.
By the 1850's the site included The GreatCourt, in the middle of which was built the Round Reading Room, surmounted by one of the largest domes in the world.
Natural History Museum Split
In spite of the expansion, space once again proved to be a problem and a new home was found for the Natural History Collection; this was transferred to South Kensington in the 1880's; and is now known as the Natural History Museum.
Removal of The British Library
Another major change to the museum took place when it was decided to remove the British Library to new purpose built premises at St. Pancras. This enormous undertaking begun in the 1970's was not completed until 1998.
The British Museum Today
Today, the British Museum is home to no less than 8 million objects and has ninety four permanent and temporary exhibition galleries. An Education Department provides a wide range of services for adults and children.
Other departments are Coins and Medals, Ancient Egypt and Sudan, Africa, Oceania and the Americas, Greek and Roman Antiquities, Asia, Prehistory and Europe, Prints and Drawings, and Middle Eastern Antiquities.
Please note there are two entrances: The main entrance is at Great Russell Street - this is where the information desk is situated and where you may obtain a free floor plan. The other entrance is on the north side of the building in Montague Place.
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Underground stations: Holborn, Tottenham Court Road, Russell Square, Goodge St.
British Museum Postcode for SatNav: WC1B 3DG