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British museum.History, culture and art


The British Museum (The British Museum) is one of the most visited museums in the city of London United Kingdom and one of the most important.It contains collections that group multiple manifestations of human knowledge.History, art, archeology and ethnography;They have their space in this cultural enclosure.

It has the largest reading room of the British Library, which was part of the museum until 1973, when its own headquarters were assigned.Likewise, until 1963 he housed in his facilities the Museum of Natural History of London that in the aforementioned year was changed to his own headquarters.Founded in 1753 and with more than two centuries ancient times, the British Museum was the first national museum in the world.

It is located at Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, England, the United Kingdom.It has an area of 92,000 m2 distributed in its galleries and rooms.

History and foundation of the British Museum

Conceived under the idea of a universal museum, the British Museum was founded by the fundamental principles of the doctor and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) who was born in Killyleagh, Ulster, in northern Ireland.

The medical visionary also acquired English nationality and exercised medicine at his home number 3 of Bloomsbury Place in London, coincidentally just in the street of the current museum building.During his life he gathered a vast collection that included:

Wanting to perpetuate your collection.Sloane bequeathed in its entirety, through its will, to King Jorge II for the Nation, in exchange for the payment of 20,000 pounds sterling to its heirs, and with the express will and condition that Parliament created a new and free public museumaccess to house her.

Prior acceptance of the conditions stipulated by the naturist, the Parliament began collection of money through a national lottery.The Parliament presented a law established by the British Museum and this was approved by King Jorge II, on June 7, 1753.

The law added other collections to Sloane's, including Cottonian Library, gathered by Sir Robert Cotton, the Harleian Library, the Oxford's Condes collection.In 1757 the real manuscripts were joined.These four collections are currently in the British Library.

Museum headquarters

Montagu House 1759

The British Museum Trust Group acquired in 1759, for 20,000 pounds, a 17th -century mansion, Montagu House, which was its first headquarters until the 1840s. In that year the first exhibition galleries and reading room for readings were opened for that yearresearchersThe collections were made up of the library and the objects of natural history.

New headquarters after Montagu 1852

Inspired by the classical Greek style, it was designed in all its greatness by the architect Sir Robert Smirke, the new headquarters that is preserved to this day, was completed in 1857 with the culmination of the circular reading room.

The building consists of four wings, the South Front has a large colonnade of 44 Greek Jonic columns, a large imperial staircase in the entrance lobby and the facade is of bricks and stones of Portland.A triangular pediment crown the building and it was installed in 1852, a sculptural set of the British sculptor Richard Westmacott.

The interior of the building has been remodeled almost entirely, but the main block and the facade, designed by Smirke, still remain intact.The last two remodeling were the reconstruction of the circular reading room and the great courtyard of Queen Elizabeth II.


In 2000 the great patio opened its doors, showing its magnificence and elegance.Created by Norman Foster, the great patio completely transformed the museum, now the public enjoys this immense lobby before accessing the rooms and galleries.

The restructuring allowed to create new spaces for collections.This masterpiece of structural engineering is a square covered by a grid and steel glass roof, the largest in Europe and is located in the central courtyard, where the British library was before.

The Circular Reading Room, located in the center of the Great Patio, was carefully restored and works as a library and information center.The Great Patio was inaugurated on December 6, 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II.

Particular aspects of the museum

Museum administration

Legal position

The British Museum is sponsored by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports under a management agreement.The British Museum was established by a law of Parliament in 1753 and is currently governed by the law of the British Museum of 1963.

According to Annex 3 of the 2011 Baleful Organizations Law, the Museum is an exempt beneficial organization regulated by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports.Because it is a non -departmental public body (NDPB) is autonomous, but it must account for Parliament.

Board of Directors

Museo Británico. Historia, Cultura y Arte

The British Museum is administered by a Trustee of Trust composed of 25 members.The president and the director are elected among the members of this Board of Directors.The Board of Trustees, with the director at the head, is responsible for the management and control of the museum.

The Board meets quarterly to consider issues of strategic importance and review progress in relation to the museum plan.The minutes are published on their website prior approval of all trusts.

How is the British Museum financed?

The form of museum financing in the world contains analogies of their mission.The British Museum has several resources for its continuous development and operation.Among them we will highlight the most important.


The museum is a charity and as such depends on donations for its operation.These can be granted either directly or by legacies in wills.Also through a foundation, trust or company.

Corporate supports

Los Corporate supports son otra forma de financiación. Algunas empresas que han alineado sus marcas con los intereses del Museo son Rothesay, Banco de America, Hakluyt, Rothschild & Co, Bloomberg y Samsung.


The sponsors of the British Museum are a vital support for the development of the museum, their collaborations through four circles range from 1500 pounds annually to 6000 pounds a year.

Special Interest Groups

In addition to employers' circles, there are a series of special interest groups that support specific areas of the museum's collection.Among them include the group of acquisition of contemporary and modern art of the Middle East (Cammea), provide help to the museum for the acquisition of modern artistic works of the region.

The Ottley group annually donates an amount of money to the Department of Engravings and Drawings in support of the acquisition of drawings in English and works of old teachers.

Commercial activities

The museum has companies administered by the trusts, the Company Limited BMCO, British Museum Ventures Limited and British Museum Great Court Limited;They contribute their commercial activities to the financing of this World Culture Center.

Other activities

Educational activities, temporary exhibitions, conferences, sale of memberships and postcards;They provide significant income to the museum.

Friends organizations

American friends of the British Museum (American Friends of the British Museum).Founded in 1989, this organization helps to publicize the work of the British Museum to all Americans, both in the US, and those who are abroad.

They support the life and growth of the museum upon receiving and donating contributions in cash, objects and actions.Among the programs and projects of this foundation we have:

British Museum Departments

Department of Africa, Oceania and Las Américas

The Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, encompasses more than 350,000 pieces of different kinds.The indigenous cultures of the four continents are represented in them.The transcendence of the collection is contemporary, archaeological and historical.

From an immense pictorial collection to ceramic figures, they are in the collection.It covers from most of Africa, Pacific and Australia to North, Central and South America.Most collections were acquired in the 19th and 20th centuries, but the investigation is currently following and samples are still collected.

The African collection has among the most outstanding aspects of Afro-Portuguese ivory, Figures of Sierra Leone, treasure of bronze currency rings of the Río Sinoe in Liberia, goldsmiths and many more objects.

Some of these artistic objects are Ivory mask of Benín de la Reina Idia, Nigeria, Otobo mask, detail of one of Benín's bronze plates, Nigeria.

Oceanic collections cover the vast area of the Pacific Ocean, which extends from Papua New Guinea to Easter Island, from New Zealand to Hawaii.Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia, are the three main anthropological groups represented in the collection.

The Americas with around 90,000 objects that cover the contemporary, historical and archaeological ages, the Américas collection covers more than 12,000 years of culture and human experience in this continent.

The objects of the collection range from delicate textiles with more than 2000 years old from Peru, to figurines made with 20 -year -old sugar brought from Mexico.

Some representative samples of this collection are Mosaic of Turquoise Snake of Dos Cabezas, Golden alloy bird pectoralA, Papua New Guinea.

The Department of Asia

Extensive and rich collection that includes Buddhist paintings of the Cuevas de Dunhuang in Central Asia, painting of the Court's instructor and an important collection of Chinese ceramics.

This area covers the east center, south and southeast of Asia and Siberia.In it we find the Buddhist reliefs of Amaravati, made in limestone, from southern Asia.The Korean collection exhibits ornamental works in Celadón, as well as lacquers and metal work.

The Japanese area contains a valuable collection of early Japanese antiques and paintings, engravings and successive decorative arts.

Some representations of the collection are courtesans of the Tamaya house, Toyoharu, Japanese screen printing, hanging jug covered with a glare, center-northern of Thailand, Buddhist reliefs of Amavati, the luohan of Yixian of enameled stoneware, China.Sri Lanka The statue of Tara.

The department of Great Britain, Europe and Prehistory

This department covers the collections that date from a long time ago, from the dawn of human culture with the manufacture of tools, to art and the archaeological discoveries of Europe today, including the history of Great Britain under Roman domain.

It includes paleolithic archeology (stone age) in Europe and worldwide.Neolithic archeology (new stone age), Bronze Age and Iron Age in Europe and Great Britain Roman.

Medieval, Renaissance and modern European culture, including the design of the twentieth century of North America.Some of his representative pieces are lovers of Ain Sakhri, from the cave of Ain Sakhri, near Bethlehem, mechanical clock of Galeon, Augsburg, Astrolabio Chaucer, the oldest in Europe, the pieces of chess of Lewis, Scotland.

  • The Department of Egypt and Sudan

    The British museum houses an extensive collection of Egyptian objects since its inception, Sloane donated approximately 150 articles from Egypt in its collection.At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, many antiques arrived in the museum as a result of the exploration and excavation work in that country.Today antiques of Egypt are no longer exported, although research work continues.

    The European interest in Egypt dates back to 1798 when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded the country and its specialists reported on the country and its archaeological treasures.At present, the collection includes more than 100,000 objects, including a large collection of sculptures that dates back to 10,000 a.C.

    Among the most precious and representative articles of the collection we have the rosette stone, the huge torso of Ramses II, the “youngest memnon”, the false fresco ‘pond in a garden’ of the tomb of Nebamun, the book of the dead.

  • The department of Greece and Rome

    It has one of the most large and representative Mediterranean old artifact collections.This spreads light on the history and culture of the ancient Mediterranean between 5000 BC.C and the decline of the Western Roman Empire in the fourth century A.D.

    More than 100,000 objects highlight the influence of the Mediterranean Sea, as a cultural link between various peoples for several centuries.Some of the valuable and beautiful samples of this collection are votive statue of Apollo de Cirene, Libya, Portland of Camafoo Glass, Gold Pending of the Treasury of Egina, Greece.

  • The Department of Middle East

    It covers outstanding aspects of the ancient and contemporary culture of the Middle East from the Neolithic to the present.It contains pieces of archeology and ancient art of Mesopotamia (Iraq), Iran, of the Mediterranean Levante, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

    Among the most prominent articles in the collection are Assyrian reliefs, treasures of the Royal Cemetery of UR, the Treasury of Oxus, Phoenic Ivory and the Cuneiform Tablets of Asurbanipal of Nineveh.

  • The delicate metal works with stone inlays originating from Iran, Syria and Egypt dazzle next to Iznik's ceramics.The ethnographic collections of the Middle East Asia and Central, include articles of the daily living: jewelry, textiles, furniture and others.


    Of singular beauty, this department contains one of the best paper collections worldwide.With more than 50,000 drawings and more than two million impressions, it represents the development of the graphic arts of Europe from the 15th century until today.Representations of America and Australia are also found.

    Created in 1861 it houses one of the best numismatic collections in the world.It covers the history of the coin of the first currencies in the seventh century A.

    Its content is versatile, it has coins, medals, weights for coins, chips and huchas.It also contains the National Paper Currency collection, which includes from the Chinese tickets of the fourteenth century, to the euro.

  • The collection of medals is formed by commemorative and artistic medals of international renown.They date from the Italian Renaissance to the present.

    Care Department of the Collection

    In this department the work of a multidisciplinary team is combined: Collection, conservation and photography and images, these three teams work together to keep the collection for the current and new generations in perfect condition.

    Under the direction of Sandra Smith, head of the Department of Care of the Collection, the 180 staff members perform their role with the aim of preserving the museum's collection.

    The collection management team is responsible for the storage, movement and exhibition of the collection, to make it available to researchers and the public.

    The conservation team deals with preserving and investigating the collection, for the benefit of present and future generations.Through the use of preventive, interventive and analytical techniques, researchers understand the causes of objects and address their stabilization and preservation.

    The photography and images takes 2D and 3D images of high quality of the pieces that form the permanent collection and those of temporary exhibitions, as well as many other things, including the archeology and architecture of the museum.

    The Scientific Research Department

    He conducts internal scientific research of the collections always taking into account the priorities of the museum.This interdisciplinary team uses special laboratories and microscopic techniques and images to carry out its research programs in organic and inorganic materials.

    His support for the care of the collection is very valuable, as well as the information they supply about the results obtained through their thorough work.With their contribution they also support the educational programs of the museum.

    Human Remains Department

    This department contains an important collection with an exceptional record on the different ways in which the peoples of the world have interpreted death and how they have undone the remains of their dead.The study of these remains provides direct information on various topics: past lives, human biology, funeral practices, different approaches to life after death and other beliefs.

    In the British Museum, human remains from all over the world are preserved, and with the greatest ethics and consideration, ensure that they are treated and exhibited with all the respect and dignity that they are owed.The museum even has an established policy for the management of human remains.


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