The British Museum, in the Bloomsbury area of London, United Kingdom, is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection of some eight million works is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence, having been widely sourced during the era of the British Empire.
The British Museum is the world’s oldest national public museum.
Sir Hans Sloane bequeathed his collection to King George II for £20,000, upon his death in January 1753.
The Museum had its own tube station for over 30 years.
On June 7th, 1753 King George II established the British Museum.
The Museum gate was once guarded by a cat named Mike.
King George II added two more collections to the British Museum’s original collection including the Cottonian Library (a collection by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton from Elizabethan times), and the Harleian Library (a collection by the Earls of Oxford).
The British Museum got so big it had to create two other national institutions to cope.
Sir Hans Sloane’s collection included approximately 7,000 manuscripts, 40,000 printed books, and 337 volumes of prints, drawings, and specimens of dried plants.
The Museum was one of the first buildings to use electric lighting.
The original British Museum’s building was the Montagu House, a mansion bought from the Montagu family for £20,000.
The Museum’s collection was evacuated during the Second World War.
The original collection of the British Museum was based largely on manuscripts, books, and natural history.
The Museum has been a popular film set.
In 1772 the British Museum acquired a collection of antique Greek vases, making its first shift away from manuscripts, books, and other literary pieces.
The British Museum is the largest indoor space on Google Street View.
In 1784 the British Museum acquired a collection by Sir William Hamilton that included Roman and Greek antiquities.
The Museum once had a ‘Cabinet of Obscene Objects’.
By 1802 the British Museum had set up a Buildings Committee to handle plans for expansion. The collection had become too large and Montagu House had begun to fall into disrepair.
Back in 1912, staff at the British Museum had to sit a written entrance exam, as staff were part of the Civil Service.
Montagu House was demolished and the new building’s construction began in 1823.
Banksy had an unofficial exhibit at the Museum.
By 1857 the Reading Room and he quadrangular building had been built.
A British Museum snail holds the record for longest suspended animation.
In 1802 the British Museum acquired the Rosetta Stone.
The Japanese Galleries house a replica of a traditional tea house.
In 1816 the British Museum acquired the Parthenon sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, which are now being fought over as Greece believes they should be returned to their country.
The Korea Gallery contains a full-size replica of a scholar’s study, known as a sarangbang.
In the late 1800s the natural history collections were moved to the Natural History Museum, which left more space in the British Museum for antiquities, and other items, including those from other cultures.
With around 6.5 million annual visitors, the British Museum is the UK’s most visited attraction, more popular than the Tate, the National Gallery and even Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
In the late 1800s the British Museum helped to establish the Egypt Exploration Society. In 1897 the British Museum was bequeathed a large collection of ancient Egyptian items, including the Oxus Treasure (a collection from between 550 – 330 BC).
The Museum loans more objects than any other institution in the world.
At the end of the 1800s the British Museum required a lot more space and it has continued to expand ever since. 69 houses were purchased in the area around the museum to make room for expansion in the late 1890s.
The Museum’s pediment depicts ‘the Progress of Civilisation’.
Today there are more than 8 million objects housed in the British Museum. Only 1% (roughly 80,000) of the items are on display at any time, but 2 million can be viewed online.
The Museum has an extremely rare North Korean collection.
More than 6 million people visit the British Museum each year.
The Great Court at the British Museum is the largest covered square in Europe.