Little Bits of History

The British Museum

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 15, 2010

The British Museum

January 15 , 1759: The British Museum opens to the public in London, England. Established in 1753 and based on the collections of Sir Hans Sloane, it is one of the world’s largest and most important museums of human history and culture. The building has three floors with 94 exhibition rooms and currently holds over seven million objects, many of which are not on display due to space constraints.

The museum quickly outgrew its original housing at the Montagu House which is still  the site of the building today. Buildings and wings have been added over the centuries. The British Museum is unique in many respects. It is governed by a body of Trustees answering to Parliament. Its collections belong to the nation rather than to any individual or group. Admission is free except for some special exhibits which carry a small fee.

But nothing is without controversy. In its inclusive and comprehensive overview of human endeavors, the British Museum owns artifacts from every continent including Parthenon Marbles and the Benin Bronzes from Greece and Nigeria respectively. These countries have lobbied to have the artifacts returned to the originating countries. Supporters of the museum point out that if all artifacts must remain in the country of origin, there can be no museum or storehouse that would contain this wonderful and educational assortment of items across time and space.

The museum has remained open since its inception except for the two World Wars when artifacts were removed for safe keeping. In World War II, the museum was actually struck by a bomb and remained damaged for 22 years. In 1972, the temporary exhibit, Treasure of Tutankhamen, attracted 1,694,117 visitors. The British Museums official website can be seen at

“A painting in a museum hears more ridiculous opinions than anything else in the world.” – Edmond de Goncourt

“Give me a museum and I’ll fill it.” – Pablo Picasso

“We are at the very beginning of time for the human race.  It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems.  But there are tens of thousands of years in the future.  Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.” – Richard P. Feynman

“A living civilization creates; a dying, builds museums.” – Martin H. Fischer

Also on this day, in 1885 Wilson Bentley took his first photograph of a snowflake.

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  1. […] on this day: The British Museum – In 1759, the British Museum opened to the public. Snowflake man – In 1885 Wilson […]

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