The British Museum opened its doors to the public in 1759, and on January 15 this year, it turned 260. Over the years, more than 350 million people visited the museum in London city – a figure that exceeds the population of the United States of America. The first visitors to take a trip walked through the entrance of Montagu House, the then museum property, and the rest, as they say, is history. If you are one among the 350 million visitors to have taken the British Museum tours, the institution is indebted to you. Of course, it is no wonder since the free-to-visit museum houses an extensive collection of art and artifacts.
The London museum’s collection includes 8,000,000 objects, which are housed across several sites. The present one expanded from the original collection of about 71,000 items, bequeathed to the country on Sir Hans Sloane’s demise. It is still growing at the museum, and the curators here continue to buy new objects.
Two Million Years of History
The rocks, made by early human beings about two million years ago, and found in Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge, are still among the oldest items in the museum collection. The rocks represent the first technological innovation in the world and could be put to other uses, i.e., to chop branches, cut meat, and smash bones. Visitors can get their hands on similar items at the objects-handling desk in the museum’s second room.
A Royal Visit
Those on British Museum tours London can see 2,774 objects in the “Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia”, spanning from the prehistoric times to the present day. The gallery was reopened by Queen Elizabeth II following a refurbishment a couple of years ago. The Queen, who was also given a guided tour by the museum curators at that time, even put her signature on the guest book.
The Great Court if the British Museum forms a stunning centerpiece to it. At two acres, the covered square is larger than a soccer pitch. In its roof, there are 3,312 glass panels, which are uniquely shaped, and which stands 26.3 meters above the floor.
A Museum for the World
Over the previous ten years, the British Museum has opened ninety-two international touring expositions in twenty-one different nations. Over ten million people around the globe have seen one of its touring shows – that exceeds London’s population itself.