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British Museum

Updated on December 14, 2014

London is in The News

With the royal marriage at the end of the month London is certainly in the news and thousands will visit for the occasion. So why not include the British Museum in your itinerary?

From the youngest age children hear about the British Museum and its collection of artefacts, relics, paintings, specimens and so on. When studying for my archaeology/anthropolgy degree it was the thrill of a lifetime to be treated to a talk by one of its many visiting academics.

Its not just a museum but a true house of learning where involvement with the sciences and arts is encouraged. It's a place where students are welcome and the general public find it so fascinating that they can actually spend days wandering its many corridors and being amazed at the displays of specimens. It takes time to research and read all that it offers so this lens may help those who are not fortunate enough to be able to get there in person to find out more and hopefully even get a memento or two from the museum shop

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Montague House
Montague House

History of the British Museum

Established in 1753 it was at first largely based on the collections of the physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane. It opened its doors to the public on 15 January 1759 in Montagu House in Bloomsbury, the site of the current building.

As the colonies expanded and interesting material arrived from their overseas holdings the scientists associated with the museum set up vast collections, which are still on display today although some have been returned to their rightful owners. Recently a group of Australian aborigines recovered the bones of some ancestors from there to bury in a sacred site in their homeland.

Wikipedia notes: Some objects in the collection, most notably the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, are the objects of intense controversy and calls for restitution to their countries of origin.

Until the British Library moved to new premises in 1997 it was unique in that it housed both it and the museum in the same building.

Fine Art Prints; Ancient Egypt; Fuji Wave Range; British Museum Classic Range; Iznik Range; books; gifts; family membership and/or tickets, available online from the web site. Shipping costs & delivery times are also provided. Exhibitions, catalogues, guides, replicas of items, and more now available.

Going to London? - Here are the top ten things to know.

Sir Hans Sloane, founder
Sir Hans Sloane, founder

A Legacy and an Institution

The Vision and Foresight of one man.

Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) had a vast collection of antiquities and what are described as curiosities, and so on. Not wanting it broken up, he bequeathed it to King George II for the nation, along with 20,000 pounds for its preservation.

Wikipedia notes: On 7 June 1753, King George II gave his formal assent to the Act of Parliament which established the British Museum. The Foundation Act, added two other libraries to the Sloane collection. The Cottonian Library, assembled by Sir Robert Cotton, dated back to Elizabethan times and the Harleian library, the collection of the Earls of Oxford. They were joined in 1757 by the Royal Library, assembled by various British monarchs. Together these four "foundation collections" included many of the most treasured books now in the British Library, including the Lindisfarne Gospels and the sole surviving copy of Beowulf.

The first of its kind in that it was owned by neither king or church, it became a repository of a vast collection of miscellany and was free for the public to enjoy at will. Housing "the Cotton and Harley manuscripts" the additions of "a literary and antiquarian element' allowed the British Museum to became both national museum and library

The trustees secured a converted mansion, Montague House, for 20,000 pounds and it became the new home of the museum. It was here that "the first exhibition galleries and reading room for scholars opened on 15 January 1759." In 1757 George II gave the Royal library to the museum along with the right to a copy of every book published in Britain.

The British Museum

What's your Opinion of Museums? - Are They Great Places to Visit?

Do museums have the right to hold cultural collections from other countries?

Yes

Yes

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    • Mark Falco 6 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      I love museums and make a point of visiting many in any new country I visit. Should they hold other country's treasures? I used to think no, in fact I remember walking through the British museum with my wife thinking 'stolen, 'stolen' whilst passing through the Indian and Egypt collections. Then having seen the devastating looting done to Iraq's museums my opinion changed. It's good to have your country's items all over the world to prevent them all getting lost or destroyed in times of social turmoil.

    • jolou 6 years ago

      Yes, certainly, it's always interesting to learn about other cultures.

    • ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      We love museums and this one's a beaut. As to holding cultural collections from other countries - how else can we experience this stuff without going to each country? I think there should be sensitivity to some of the issues, esp. with some really important items - perhaps more exhibit sharing and swapping could go on, on a rotational basis and worldwide?

    • MagpieNest 6 years ago

      Yes, definitely. But there may be key items that should be returned to their country of origin.

    • Jennifer P Tanabe 6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      When I go to a museum or art gallery I'm interested in seeing things from different parts of the world, not just the local culture although some do specialize in local artifacts. I'm not going to travel to every place that has an interesting culture so I'd like to have the opportunity to see exhibitions from places I might never visit. Of course, they could make replicas and send the originals back when the original country has a museum of its own able to house them.

    • Wednesday-Elf 6 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      If museums were never allowed to hold cultural collections from other countries, most of us would never be able to view such artifacts. I do think such "collections" should be on a 'loan' basis, and returned to the country of origin after a period of time. Some collections I know are on a 'permanent' loan, as the originating country has a similar collection.

    No

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      Arrival of the Rosetta Stone
      Arrival of the Rosetta Stone

      The Exhibits kept Coming

      From the South Pacific to Egypt

      Cook's journeys and discoveries of new lands, such as Australia, and people like the botanist Joseph Banks and the naturalist Charles Darwin delivered a great deal of intriguing material. Its arrival in England wasto show a startled public things they could never have dreamed of from the pacific region.

      Artists produced drawings of animals the like of which had never been seen before. Things like the platypus, which some claimed was a composite of two animals put together for a joke. Then there were the giant rats, that we know of as kangaroos, koala bears and kookaburras, all made their presence felt in the form of stuffed carcases or faithfully reproduced images.

      But there was also the flora with images of wonderful plants like the Banksia, wattle, the native wild flowers and, of course, the New South Wales Waratah, a giant red flower whose blooms are magnificent. Soon too came the skeletons of Australian aborigines which, along with their unique symbols and rituals, were a great curiosity. It was not that long beforehand that the American Indians had been paraded before the startled eyes of those who previously had perceived white man to be the only humans created by their God.

      Aside from Cook Sir William Hamilton (1730-1803), who served as British Ambassador to Naples, "sold his collection of Greek and Roman artefacts to the museum in 1784 together with a number of other antiquities and natural history specimens." Along with this was "a number of drawings of Mount Vesuvius sent by Hamilton to the Royal Society in London."

      The public could not get enough.

      Wikipedia notes: In the early 19th century the foundations for the extensive collection of sculpture began to be laid and Greek, Roman and Egyptian artefacts dominated the antiquities displays. After the defeat of the French Campaign in the Battle of the Nile, in 1801, the British Museum acquired more Egyptian sculpture and in 1802 King George III presented the Rosetta Stone (pictured) - key to the deciphering of hieroglyphs

      Gifts, purchases, sculptures. artefacts and the discoveries from Egypt, Rome, Greece and elsewhere was filling the space to overflowing. It was time to think expansion and in 1802 a building committee was formed.

      "The dilapidated Old Montagu House was demolished and work on the King's Library Gallery began in 1823. The extension, the East Wing, was completed by 1831. However, following the founding of the National Gallery, London in 1824, the proposed Picture Gallery was no longer needed, and the space on the upper floor was given over to the Natural History collections"

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      Australia's Wildflowers

      Archaeological finds
      Archaeological finds

      Archaeological Collections

      Beyond their wild imaginations

      Archaeology is a relatively new science, mainly getting underway mid 1800's with explorations in Egypt and elsewhere to examine the standing remnants of past cicivlisations. But suddenly one or two began to dig a little deeper and unearthed past habitats that would soon have the place buzzing again.

      Wikipedia notes: In 1840 the Museum became involved in its first overseas excavations, Charles Fellows's expedition to Xanthos, in Asia Minor, whence came remains of the tombs of the rulers of ancient Lycia, among them the Nereid and Payava monuments. In 1857 Charles Newton was to discover the 4th-century BC Mausoleum of Halikarnassos, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In the 1840s and 1850s the Museum supported excavations in Assyria by A.H. Layard and others at sites such as Nimrud and Nineveh. Of particular interest to curators was the eventual discovery of Ashurbanipal's great library of cuneiform tablets, which helped to make the Museum a focus for Assyrian studies.

      Sir Thomas Grenville (1755-1846), a Trustee of The British Museum from 1830, assembled a fine library of 20,240 volumes, which he left to the Museum in his will. The books arrived in January 1847 in twenty-one horse-drawn vans. The only vacant space for this large library was a room originally intended for manuscripts, between the Front Entrance Hall and the Manuscript Saloon. The books remained here until the British Library moved to St Pancras in 1998."

      The Catalogue is Immense

      It bridges 6,000 years of human history

      Like most museums, which probably copied their operations from the British Museum, one can study the civilisations of past eras, the languages spoken and many of which are now extinct, the life cycles of humans and animals, and so much more.

      Ask a question or choose a theme and follow the links to the answers.

      Whether your interest lies in the imperial war museum; british library; natural history museum; british museum shop; british museum of natural history; lindow man british museum; british museum photo; british museum bloomsbury; or other, the modern technology speeds up the research process. It is also the authoritative source of images describing world culture and history with arifacts including ceramics, sculpture, prints, drawings, and paintings.

      It's a place to spend days, not just hours. It's a source of culture and information that is a world leader. If you go to London to see the collection then make sure you allow enough time to enjoy the experience.

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      This Company provides first class service and is first choice for many passengers for their premium class. You need to check out the web site and book online to travel to the UK and Europe.

      Girl's Right of Passage

      What to Know About the Museum

      Make a Note of Opening Times

      Admission is free to all visitors. The opening hours os ome sections may vary at short notice but this is the normal schedule.

      The Museum is open daily, 10.00–17.30

      The opening times of some galleries may be limited at short notice.

      There are also temporary gallery closures for the purpose of setting up exhibits, removing others and general maintenance.

      The Museum is always closed on 1 January, 24, 25, 26 December

      There are late opening times on Thursday and Friday until 20.30pm

      Great Court Opening times

      Sunday – Wednesday, 09.00–18.00

      Thursday – Saturday, 09.00–23.00

      For more details visit the web page

      Do You Support Longer Opening Hours? - Especially for Museums and Libraries

      Many people are only able to visit such places outside of normal trading hours so what is your opinion?

      Should educational institutions, like the British Museum, be open 24/7 perhaps?

      Yes - at least longer hours than at present

      Yes - at least longer hours than at present

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        • goldenrulecomics 5 years ago

          maybe not 24 hours a day but certainly more hours and days...

        • Mark Falco 6 years ago from Reno, Nevada

          I'll be the contrarian who says yes. OK 24 hours a day is too long, but we missed out on a few museums in London because they were closing earlier than we expected. Museums in big cities really shouldn't close before 10pm.

        no - I don't think so

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          • jolou 6 years ago

            No one needs to go in the middle of the night.

          • ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

            What about the poor staff - being forced into night shifts?

          • MagpieNest 6 years ago

            The current hours seem about right. It's great that they have evening opening some days.

          • Jennifer P Tanabe 6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

            24/7 is not necessary - especially in parts of the world where basically nowhere is open all night! However, extended hours are important. They should be open evenings and weekends so that the public has plenty of opportunities to visit.

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          Comments

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              anonymous 4 years ago

              It is a real beautiful piece of culture and heritage, I would love to visit British museum some day.

            • sudokunut profile image

              Mark Falco 6 years ago from Reno, Nevada

              It's funny. I lived in England for 28 years and never visited the British Museum. Now, as a tourist in my own country I have been there 3 times in 5 years! The Smithsonian is next on my list.

            • jolou profile image

              jolou 6 years ago

              I love museums, would definitely visit the British one if I get to London.

            • ChrisDay LM profile image

              ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

              We visited the Terracotta Warriors exhibition and the Hadrian exhibition when they were laid on - both very special.

            • MagpieNest profile image

              MagpieNest 6 years ago

              I've visited the British Museum, but haven't taken my children there yet. I'm sure we'll go there a few times when they're a bit older.

            • Wednesday-Elf profile image

              Wednesday-Elf 6 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

              The British Museum appears to be a fascinating place. Is the Imperial War Museum part of the British Museum? We were in London in 1992 on a tour and had a marvelous time at the Imperial War Museum, the Churchill War Rooms in Whitehall, and the historic ship HMS Belfast, moored in the Pool of London. London is so full of history - such a fascinating place.

              You've put together a terrific page about the British Museum. ~~Blessed by a SquidAngel~~

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              Jennifer P Tanabe 6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

              Good job! Makes me want to visit the British Museum.