London's British Museum is one of the largest, most well-known and most definitely fascinating museums of human history in the world. Located right in the heart of the city, the vast collection includes artefacts from every corner of the planet ranging from prehistoric pieces to examples of modern culture's influence on society. It is also astounding that like many of London's top museums, entry is free. There's no reason for you to miss out on visiting!
The first collection from which today's British Museum would emerge was started by Sir Hans Sloane in the first half of the 18th century. He managed to amass around 70,000 different objects primarily comprising of valuable books, natural curiosities and antiquities from all over the world. The collection was sold to King George II to ensure its preservation for future generations and a decree was passed to set up the British Museum in 1753, the year that Sir Sloane died.
The British Museum was initially planned to be established on the site presently occupied by Buckingham Palace, but plans were then changed to house it in Montagu House on Great Russel Street. The Museum has remained in the area ever since with its current premises constructed over the course of 30 years with the new museum opening its doors for the first time in 1857.
As the British Empire expanded, so did the museum's collection with new wings being built to expand the museum building and accomodate exhibits from the Americas, Australia, asia and African exploration. The museum only halted its expansion during the Second World War as the majority of its most prized assets were moved to secure bunkers and a number of provincial mansions in rural England and Wales. The Duveen Gallery was severely damaged by German bombs and the museum underwent a major post-war restoration during the fifties as the collection was reassembled.
The most recent major addition to the Museum's building is the grand Elizabeth II Great Court - a large internal space covered by latticed glass making it the largest covered square in Europe. This beautiful open area at the front of the museum was opened in 2000 just after a large addition of objects from the times of Roman rule in Britain.
The collection held by the British Museum is vast and includes examples of almost every piece of human history that has been preserved to our day. Here are just some of the key Departments:
Alongside these, there are Departments of Prehistory and Europe, Prints and Drawings, Africa, Oceania and the Americas & the Department of Coins and Medals.
Throughout the Year
Great Russell Street
United Kingdom WC1B 3DG