The British Museum chronicles human history, from its earliest known origins up until the present day, through culture with over 13 million works of art and artefacts collected from all continents, making the collection one of the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the world. Apart from being a leading London attraction, the British Museum is also a well respected institute for cultural research, with teams of experts continually working with the collection to discover just who we are and where we come from.
Established in 1753 using the collection of the then famous physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane, the British Museum was first opened to the public in 1759 in Bloomsbury in Montagu House on what is now the current site of the British Museum. Over the following two-and-a-half centuries the British Museum went from strength to strength and resulted in the opening of several affiliated institutions, the most famous being the British Museum of Natural History (now the Natural History Museum) in Kensington, 1887. The British Museum also housed the British Library until 1997, when it moved to a new site next to St Pancras Station.
Despite the British Museum’s role as a cultural centre, Sir Hans Sloane in his will originally intended it to be a ‘universal museum,’ and not wishing his collection of 71,000 manuscripts, dried plants, prints and antiquities gathered from Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Americas and the Near, Middle and Far East, he bequeathed it all to the then reigning King George II.
With over 13 million objects in its collections (though obviously not all on show) the British Museum has something for everyone. Museum Highlights include: The Rosetta Stone – dating back to 196 BC, the Stone has been key in the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphs; The Mummy Board of Henutmehyt – the pouter coffin of this wealthy Egyptian priestess and dates back to 1250 BC; The Round Reading Room – opened in 1857, the Museum’s book collection was a focal point for academic researchers the world over; The Great Court – designed by architect Lord Norman Foster and opened in 2000, the glass covered area is now a major London attraction in its own right.
British Museum opening times:
Viewing Galleries: Daily 10:00 – 17:30
Great Court: Sunday – Wednesday 09:00 – 18:00
Thursday – Saturday 09:00 – 23:00
Museum is closed 1 January, Good Friday, 24 -26 December
Getting to British Museum:
Holborn (Central and Piccadilly lines)
Tottenham Court Road (Central and Northern lines)
Russell Square (Piccadilly line)
Goodge Street (Northern line)
Covent Garden (Piccadilly line)
Euston (Northern and Victoria lines)