A vast legacy
The British Museum contains over 8 million artefacts from all over the world, exploring history, art and culture from man’s beginnings up to the modern age. The Museum is located in the beautiful and historic Bloomsbury district, an area famous for creativity and learning, which is also home to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and many other museums and universities.
The Museum was established in 1753 when Sir Hans Sloane, a physician and naturalist, gave his large collection of over 71,000 artefacts to King George II for the nation in exchange for a payment of £20,000 to his heirs. The artefacts were put on public display in 1759 with free admission in Montagu House, on the same site as the museum today, creating the first national public museum in the world.
From Egypt to Bloomsbury
At first the Museum’s collection was made up mostly of books, coins and drawings. From the early 19th century, however, it began rapidly acquiring important ancient artefacts such as the Rosetta Stone, which decoded the mysteries of Egyptian hieroglyphs for the first time, and classical sculpture from Greece - including the controversial Elgin Marbles. Other antiquities include Greek vases, Egyptian statues and mummies, a stunning Assyrian colossal winged bull and other sculptures from the Middle East.
During the latter half of the 19th century the focus shifted from foreign antiquities to homegrown British treasures. The four most recent galleries added to the Museum are Chinese ceramics, Europe 1050–1540, clocks and watches, and the painted tomb-chapel of a wealthy ancient Egyptian named Nebamun.
The British Museum is a spectacular attraction with an abundance of treasures from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas to offer its visitors – and it’s entirely free. You could easily spend a full day (or two) wandering its vast galleries, so when you visit be sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore.