"near the British Museum"
A panorama of the old Round Reading Room in the British Museum - Credit: David Iliff
The British Museum has one of the world’s largest and finest collections on human history and culture. With over eight million works from across the world in its permanent collection, the museum owns a total of 13 million objects at the main site, 70 million at the Natural History Museum and 150 million at the British Library. Departments are dedicated to Ancient Egypt and Sudan, Greece and Rome, Prehistory and Europe, Prints and Drawings, Coins and Medals and more. The museum is also a centre for archives and research.
The British Museum - Credit: Ham
Founded in 1753 on the basis of collections owned by scientist Sir Hans Sloane
, the museum was able to expand immeasurably over the next two centuries thanks to Britain’s Empire. The museum was originally housed in the 17th
century mansion Montagu House, but the current building, designed by Sir Robert Smirke
, was begun in 1823 and has been expanded and developed ever since. The British Library was housed under the same roof as the British Museum until 1997, centred on the famous Round Reading Room
, and the Natural History collections have been located in a separate museum in South Kensington since 1887.
As a national institution, the British Museum is free and has the most visitors of any museum in the country and the second most of any in the world. The current director is Neil MacGregor.