British Museum

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he British Museum is a museum in London dedicated to human history and culture. Its permanent collection, numbering some 8 million works,[3] is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence[3] and originates from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present.[a]

The British Museum was established in 1753, largely based on the collections of the physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane. The museum first opened to the public on 15 January 1759 in Montagu House in Bloomsbury, on the site of the current museum building. Its expansion over the following two and a half centuries was largely a result of an expanding British colonial footprint and has resulted in the creation of several branch institutions, the first being the British Museum (Natural History) in South Kensington in 1881. Some objects in the collection, most notably the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, are the objects of controversy and of calls for restitution to their countries of origin.

Until 1997, when the British Library (previously centred on the Round Reading Room) moved to a new site, the British Museum housed both a national museum of antiquities and a national library in the same building. The museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and as with all other national museums in the United Kingdom it charges no admission fee, except for loan exhibitions.[4] Since 2002 the director of the museum has been Neil MacGregor.[5]

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British Museum Blog

  • Solar eclipses, then and now

    When I read ancient texts, it always strikes me how the people whose lives I glimpse in them are so instantly recognisable. Yet sometimes theirs is an alien world. The solar eclipse is one such moment. Known as Utu to the Sumerians, and Shamash to the Assyrians and Babylonians, the sun was one of the […]

  • Photography at the Museum: a developing story

    Early pioneers On 31 January 1839, photography pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot announced his new calotype photographic process to the Royal Society. He was the creator of what is thought to be the earliest surviving photographic negative, taken in 1835, of a small window at his home at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire. In March 1839 […]

  • The power of patronage at the Great Shrine of Amaravati

    The Asahi Shimbun Display Virtual pilgrimage: reimagining India’s Great Shrine of Amaravati focuses on a double-sided relief from a shrine in south-east India. Founded around 200 BC, the Great Shrine of Amaravati was one of the earliest, largest and most important Buddhist monuments in the world. The importance of Amaravati and its sculptures Located near […]

  • Object journeys: working with the Kiribati community in the UK

    When I was asked back in 2014 to start thinking about the upcoming Object Journeys project, my mind immediately turned to the possibility of bringing the British Museum’s Micronesia collection in to focus. The Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas has close links with some of the members of the Kiribati Tungaru Association (KTA) […]

  • Fantastic beasts and where to find them

    A bestiary is a kind of encyclopedia featuring a compilation of descriptions of animals, beasts – and sometimes even rocks. In England, they were particularly popular in the 12th and 13th centuries, and drew their origins from classical literature such as the work of Pliny the Elder and a Greek text from the AD 300s called […]

  • A new dimension in home shopping

    Over the last four years, the British Museum has been producing 3D models that can be viewed by anyone online. The roots of this work can be traced back to the Arts and Humanities Research Council‘s funding of the MicroPasts crowdsourcing project with University College London, which produced 3D objects for academic research. The Museum continued […]

  • Hokusai in the world, then and now

    Everyone knows the Great Wave. The print itself is the most reproduced image in the world – appearing on everything from pencils to coffee mugs, and street art to drums.  And the wave is reused endlessly, to illustrate our vulnerability to the power of nature (and nature’s vulnerability to us), the storms of the global […]

  • The British Museum Membercast: Friends, Romans, countrymen? – Part 2

      The British Museum Membercast is a monthly podcast made available to ‘all studious and curious persons’. Comedian, podcaster and super-fan Iszi Lawrence (The Z List Dead List) presents snippets from exclusive Members’ lectures at the Museum, artfully woven together with interviews and her own musings. Please share your comments and feedback about the podcast! […]

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