The British Museum, located in London, is a museum dedicated to human history, culture and art. Founded in 1753, the British Museum was the first national public museum in the world.
Nowadays, the collection of the British Museum comprises over 8 million objects that illustrate and document the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present.
The origins of the British Museum lie in the will of physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane. During the course of his lifetime, Sloane collected about 71,000 objects of all kinds including manuscripts, printed books, antiquities and natural specimens.
Wishing to preserve intact his collection, he bequeathed it to King George II, for the nation.
At present, the museum no longer houses collections of natural history or the books and manuscripts it once held. These collections are now part of the Natural History Museum (since 1880s) and of the British Library (since 1973), respectively.
Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan
Apart from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the British Museum houses the largest and most comprehensive collection of Egyptian antiquities in the world. This extensive collection illustrates the cultures of the Nile Valley, from the Neolithic period (about 10,000 BC) to the present day.
The Rosetta Stone, which was the key to the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs, is one of the most important items of this collection
Department of Greece and Rome
This department has one of the most extensive collections of antiquities from the Classical world. It comprises over 100,000 objects that range in date from the beginning of the Greek Bronze Age (about 3200 BC) to the 4th century.
The Greek collection includes elements of two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus.
Department of the Middle East
The ancient and contemporary civilisations and cultures of the Middle East are very well represented in this department. The collection includes objects from the Neolithic period until the present.
Assyrian reliefs, the Oxus Treasure and Phoenician ivories are just a few of the most important items of the collection.
Department of Prints and Drawings
The Department of Prints and Drawings contains the national collection of Western prints and drawings. Comprising about 50,000 drawings and over two million prints, it ranks as one of the largest collections of this kind in the world. The collection of drawings covers the period from the 14th century up to the present day and includes works of important artists such as Raphael, Dürer, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Goya.
In this department, there are also documentary collections of historical, satirical and topographical prints, as well as important collections of printed ephemera.
Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory
Established in 1969, this department is responsible for collections that cover a vast expanse of time and geography. It includes the earliest human tools made in Africa and Asia about 2 million years ago, as well as the art and archaeology of Europe from the earliest times to the present day.
Department of Asia
The scope of this department is extremely broad. Its collections cover the material and visual culture of the whole Asian continent and they span from the Neolithic (from about 5000 BC) to the present day.
Key highlights of the collections include a large and comprehensive collection of sculpture from the Indian subcontinent, including the celebrated limestone reliefs from Amaravati.
Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas
Its collection includes around 350,000 objects that represent the cultures of the indigenous people of four continents.
The scope of the collection is archaeological, contemporary and historical and includes a large pictorial collection.
Department of Coins and Medals
This Department is home to one of the world’s finest numismatic collections, comprising about one million objects, which include coins, medals, tokens and paper money. The collection spans the history of coinage from its origins in the 7th century BC to the present day.
Department of Conservation and Scientific Research
Founded in 1920, the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research works alongside other departments to conserve and investigate the collection for the benefit of present and future generations.
The Museum has one of the oldest and largest conservation facilities of the world. This department has and continues to develop new conservation techniques as well as techniques to date artefacts, analyse and identify the materials used and other information about those items.
Saturday to Thursday: 10:00 – 17:30
Fridays: 10:00 – 20:30
Entrance fee: free