British Museum

Great Russell Street,
London,
WC1B 3DG

The British Museum was founded in 1753, the first national public museum in the world. From the beginning it granted free admission to all 'studious and curious persons'. Visitor numbers have grown from around 5,000 a year in the eighteenth century to nearly 6 million today.

The origins of the British Museum lie in the will of the physician, naturalist and collector, Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753).

Over his lifetime, Sloane collected more than 71,000 objects which he wanted to be preserved intact after his death. So he bequeathed the whole collection to King George II for the nation in return for a payment of £20,000 to his heirs.

The gift was accepted and on 7 June 1753, an Act of Parliament established the British Museum.

The founding collections largely consisted of books, manuscripts and natural specimens with some antiquities (including coins and medals, prints and drawings) and ethnographic material. In 1757 King George II donated the 'Old Royal Library' of the sovereigns of England and with it the privilege of copyright receipt.

The British Museum opened to the public on 15 January 1759 . It was first housed in a seventeenth-century mansion, Montagu House, in Bloomsbury on the site of today's building. Entry was free and given to ‘all studious and curious Persons’.

With the exception of two World Wars, the Museum has remained open ever since, gradually increasing its opening hours and moving from an attendance of 5,000 per year to today's 6 million.

Events at this venue
 
Book Ancient Lives, New Discoveries Tickets
Ancient Lives, New Discoveries
Ancient lives, new discoveries22 May – 30 November 2014British Museum Think you know mummies? Think again. This exhibition will introduce you to eight people from ancient...
Book Ancient Lives, New Discoveries + 3 Course Dinner & Glass of Champagne at The Ritz Tickets
Ancient Lives, New Discoveries + 3 Course Dinner & Glass of Champagne at The Ritz
Package includes a ticket to Ancient Lives, New Discoveries at the British Museum, and a 3-course meal with a glass of champagne at The Ritz. Additional drinks are not included....
Book Ancient Lives, New Discoveries + 3 Course Lunch & Glass of Champagne at The Ritz Tickets
Ancient Lives, New Discoveries + 3 Course Lunch & Glass of Champagne at The Ritz
Package includes a ticket to Ancient Lives, New Discoveries at the British Museum, and a 3-course meal with a glass of champagne at The Ritz. Additional drinks are not included....
Book The BP exhibition Ming: 50 Years That Changed China Tickets
The BP exhibition Ming: 50 Years That Changed China
The BP exhibition Ming: 50 years that changed China18 September 2014 – 5 January 2015British Museum This major exhibition will explore a golden age in China's history.Between...
Book Ming: 50 Years That Changed China + 3 Course Dinner & Glass of Champagne at The Ritz Tickets
Ming: 50 Years That Changed China + 3 Course Dinner & Glass of Champagne at The Ritz
Package includes Entry to Ming: 50 years that changed China at the British Museum, and a 3-course meal with a glass of champagne at The Ritz.Additional drinks are not included....
Book Ming: 50 Years That Changed China + 3 Course Lunch & Glass of Champagne at The Ritz Tickets
Ming: 50 Years That Changed China + 3 Course Lunch & Glass of Champagne at The Ritz
Package includes Entry to Ming: 50 years that changed China at the British Museum, and a 3-course meal with a glass of champagne at The Ritz.Additional drinks are not included....
Book Ming: 50 Years That Changed China + London Bus Tour Tickets
Ming: 50 Years That Changed China + London Bus Tour
DISCOVER LONDON! Package includes entry to Ming: 50 years that changed China at the British Museum, and a ticket for the Original London Sightseeing Bus Tour.