British museum

Article

July 1, 2022

The British Museum (in English: The British Museum) is a museum of the city of London, United Kingdom, one of the most important and visited museums in the world. Its collections cover diverse fields of human knowledge, such as history, archaeology, ethnography and art. The museum was one of the first institutions of its kind in Europe, being the first national museum in the world.[2] It houses more than eight million objects from all continents, many of which are stored for study and restoration, or saved due to lack of space to exhibit them. It has the largest reading room in the British Library, a library that, although it now has its own headquarters, until 1973 was also part of the museum, as was the Natural History Museum in London, which changed to its own headquarters in the year 1963. The Ancient Egypt section is the most important in the world after the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Admission to the museum and to many of the services it offers —such as the reading room— is free, except for some temporary exhibitions.

History

The origins of the museum can be traced back to a collection of more than 80,000 items from the private collection of Sir Hans Sloane, a physician and naturalist. This doctor donated his private collection to the British State according to his will of 1753. The collection included 40,000 books, 7,000 manuscripts, Dürer's drawings, his collection of natural sciences and medicine, as well as antiquities from Egypt, Greece, Rome, the East Middle, Far East and America. The British government acquired this collection for the symbolic price of 20,000 pounds, an amount that was obtained through a public lottery organized by the British Parliament, according to its founding act of January 7, 1753. In addition, the personal library of Robert Cotton and that of the antiquarian Robert Harley. Its administrators decided that its first location would be in the Montagu house, a 16th-century mansion in the London neighborhood of Bloomsbury, which they acquired for 20,000 pounds. It was opened to the public on January 15, 1759. Since its opening, the museum has done nothing but increase its collection through donations or purchases. Although at first its main assets were documents and books, it soon began to receive a large number of old objects. In 1782, the collection of antiquities increased significantly, due to the purchase by the State of the works and objects of Sir William Hamilton, the British ambassador in Naples, which included pieces from Greece and Rome. The defeat of Napoleon's fleet in Egypt at the Battle of Aboukir allowed the British Museum in 1801 to acquire a large number of Egyptian antiquities and the famous Rosetta Stone. A large number of Greek sculptures were also added, such as those in the Townely Collection in 1805 and the Elgin Marbles, better known as the Parthenon Marbles, donated by the Earl of Elgin in 1816. The King's 1823 donation George IV to the British State of his father's library, the King's Library, caused consideration of the need to move the collection to a new location due to lack of space in the Montagu house. After the move, the old headquarters was demolished in 1845. The architect Robert Smirke was commissioned to design the current museum headquarters. The museum began to attract many curators and historians, which caused them to start cataloging and classifying all the pieces they contained. The first of these catalogs was published in 1808. At the same time, it began to host the study of numerous researchers, who found in its rooms a lot of documentation from the library and unique pieces on which to work. In 1887, due to lack of space, they transferred the entire collection of natural pieces to the Museum of History.