The British Museum is located at 44 Great Russell Street in the Bloomsbury area of London and is one of the largest museums in the world. Founded in 1753, it was opened to the public in 1759 when it became the world’s first national public museum. Today the British Museum is home to one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of art and historical artefacts. This popular museum is reported to have over 6 million visitors a year.
It is one of the roles of the British Museum to represent the history and culture of the world as a whole, so galleries exhibit collections originating not only from Europe, but also the Americas, Africa, Aisa, and Australasia. British items on display include Stone Age jewellery, and the remains of a preserved body dating from the middle of the 1st century known as Lindow Man. Roman artefacts include pottery and coins, plus the cameo-
Located at the museums centre is the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, which on its opening in December 2000, became the largest covered square in Europe measuring 96 by 72 meters. This award winning building was constructed through a collaboration between the engineers Buro Happold, and the architects Foster & Partners, and features a roof constructed using a steel framework in which is set 3312 panes of glass each of which has been printed with small dots that cover in total half the glazed surface. This technique, known as “fritting” has been designed to reduce the effects of sunlight entering the building.
The museum hosts an exceptional collection from Greece, with the oldest items dating back to the Bronze Age. Part of the collection includes sculptures from the mausoleum at Halikarnassos, but probably the best known of the collection is that which has become known as the Elgin Marbles. This collection was acquired by Lord Elgin who was the British ambassador to the Ottoman court of the Sultan of Istanbul. The collection includes many items from the Acropolis at Athens including the Erechtheion, the Propylaia, and the Temple of Athena Nike. The best known is those removed from the Parthenon and includes what remains of a frieze that would have originally been 524 feet long, and of which 247 feet remains, and is now on display in the Duveen Gallery.
The museum has a very large collection of Egyptian artefacts that is only exceeded by that in the Cairo Museum, Egypt. Of all the Egyptian artefacts, the best known is probably the Rosetta Stone, which after its discovery finally enabled archaeologists to decipher the mystery of Egyptian hieroglyphics. There are many other African artefacts on display, many of which were brought back by explorers during the Victorian period. The Asian continent is represented with sculptures from India, jade and porcelain from China, and a fine collection of Islamic pottery. Recently added is a collection of Japanese weapons and armour. Another popular exhibit is the Hoa Hakananai’a statue from Easter Island.