The British Museum


The British Museum, situated in London, boasts an astounding exhibition of more than 13 million individual items, all relating to the history of human beings and the cultures that have come out of this unique species. Its focus is not limited to London or England, though; the British Museum exhibits pieces from all over the world, which are woven together to create a global history, applying to every person on the planet. As such, the British Museum is a major attraction to visitors, without reservation. Indeed, young and old can enjoy its rich diversity.

The museum was first established in 1753 and opened to the public six years later. The bulk of its exhibitions were based on the collections of Sir Hans Sloane, who was a renowned scientist and physician. In fear of his valuable collection being lost or destroyed after his death, Sir Sloane sold it to King George II. At that time, there were about 71 000 pieces made available to the nation, comprising (amongst many other objects) dried plants, prints, books and drawings, which had come from Egypt, Rome, Greece and various other places.

When the museum was opened for public attendance, it was situated in Montagu House, Bloomsbury, exactly where the modern museum is situated. As the English conquered and inhabited more and more areas all over the world, the museum’s contents grew exponentially, leading to its regular revamps and enlargements. This was the first museum in England that was not owned by the Church or the King, but was merely a national resource. It was soon populated by generous donations and gifts as well as purchased items. After the Battle of the Nile (1801), a large amount of Egyptian sculptures were sourced. The following year, the famous Rosetta Stone was presented by King George III. This is a significant piece that has aided scientists to decipher the mysterious hieroglyphs of long ago.


Image of The British Museum taken from the North East
The British Museum taken from the North East

The British Museum had been renowned for its natural history collections until 1887, when these items were moved to the British Museum of Natural History, as the Natural History Museum was then known. However, it did also mean more room and the library was extended and antique collectibles increased. By the end of the 1800’s, it became clear that yet more room was required. In 1895, all of the houses around the museum were bought so that the trustees had more ground with which to work. Major changes to the building’s interior and exterior structures were experienced in the 1950’s and 1970’s.

The British Museum is sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and is a national museum. It no longer has natural history displays or the old books and manuscripts it once housed. Rather, these have been moved to other relevant establishments for their continued preservation.

The Museum consists of various departments, of which each boast their own unique exhibitions. These include:

Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan
The favourites of this collection include:

• The Rosetta Stone (196 Before our Common Era, or BCE)
• Fragment of the beard of the Great Sphinx (1300 BCE)
• Mummy of 'Ginger' (3300 BCE)
• List of the kings of Egypt from the Temple of Ramesses II (1250 BCE)
• Mummy of Cleopatra from Thebes (100 CE)
• Obelisk of Pharaoh Nectanebo II (360–343 BCE)

Department of Roman and Greek Antiquities
Popular pieces include:

• Athenian Akropolis
• The Parthenon Gallery
• Athena Nike
• Bassae Sculptures
• Mausoleum of Halikarnassos
• Temple of Artemis at Ephesos
• Nereid Monument

Department of the Middle East
Highlights include:

• Pair of Human Headed 'Lamassu' Lions (883-859 BCE)
• The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (858-824 BCE)
• The Flood Tablet, relating part of the famous Epic of Gilgamesh
• Cyrus Cylinder from Babylon
• The Standard of Ur
• The 'Ram in a Thicket'
• Queen's Lyre

Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas
Including the following favourites:

• The Sutton Hoo treasure
• Royal Gold Cup
• Holy Thorn Reliquary

Being one of England’s national museums, the British Museum does not charge an entrance fee and is open to the public every day.

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