To say that the British Museum is massive is a huge understatement. Home to over six million artefacts and almost one hundred galleries, the British Museum is overwhelmingly large. It is a place where a morning or afternoon spent will barely scratch the surface of the rich variety that is on offer. Yet the British Museum is an absolute must to visit. According to a 2010 survey by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions survey, the British Museum was the number one visited attraction in the UK, with an impressive 5,842,138 visitors.
Established in 1753, the British Museum has earned world renown through the assimilation and meticulous presentation of artefacts from a huge variety of different cultures, both past and present, with a range that spans the globe. The British Museum is also fortunate to house a number of iconic objects such as the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon and its collection of Egyptian mummies.
Entering the Museum for the first time is daunting given the size of the building and the crowds it attracts. The interlinking galleries that run through the Museum are so extensive and labyrinthine that without a map, you will get lost. There are two types of map on offer: one is free, whilst the other costs a small amount and comes with two bonuses: it's colour coded (very useful) and includes four excellent self-guided tours that are particularly useful if you have a time limit for visiting the Museum.
The Enlightenment Gallery acts as a good starting point at the Museum and it houses the permanent collection: Enlightenment: Discovering the World in the 18th Century. The objects displayed in this gallery were collected during the early years of the British Museum and they help us to explore the passions and ideas of collectors and scholars at this time. The collection as a whole is interested in the way in which history was understood in the past and how contemporary studies of history differ. It explains that scholars of the late 18th century saw Ancient Greece as the height of artistic achievement to which all other civilisations must be compared. The Enlightenment Gallery also attempts to address the fascinating question: What was man's first language?
In addition to the permanent collections on display at the museum, there are always a number of temporary exhibitions. Once you have visited the British Museum and had a glimpse of the magnitude that is on offer, it is almost guaranteed that you will feel compelled to return for many more visits.
The British Museum holds in trust for the nation and the world a collection of art and antiquities from ancient and living cultures.
Housed in one of Britain's architectural landmarks, the collection is one of the finest in existence, spanning two million years of human history. Access to the collection is free.
The Museum was based on the practical principle that the collection should be put to public use and be freely accessible. It was also grounded in the Enlightenment idea that human cultures can, despite their differences, understand one another through mutual engagement. The Museum was to be a place where this kind of humane cross-cultural investigation could happen. It still is.
The Museum aims to reach a broader worldwide audience by extending engagement with this audience. This is engagement not only with the collections that the Museum has, but the cultures and territories that they represent, the stories that can be told through them, the diversity of truths that they can unlock and their meaning in the world today.
The Museum has continually sought to make its collections available to greater and more diverse audiences, first in London, subsequently the UK and worldwide. Over the past forty years, the increasing ease of international travel has meant not only that more visitors from abroad can come to London to use the collection, but that the collection can more easily travel to them, and be put to public use in new local contexts.
Admission is free.
British MuseumGreat Russell Street
London Greater London United Kingdom WC1B 3DG
Sat-Thu 10:00 - 17:30, Fri 10:00 - 20:30