British Museum

The British Museum is known as the museum of natural history. It is one of the largest museums in the world bringing together ancient collections from all over the world. The British Museum consists of archeology and antiques.

The British Museum was established in the year 1753 by a physician, Sir Hans Sloane. The museum was opened to the public on 15th January 1759 in Montague House. The museum is located in Bloomsbury district in Central London in England.

The British Museum is unique as it comprises of both a national museum and a national library. It has a huge collection of over seven million objects. The British Museum is a public body. It is sponsored by Department of Culture, Department of Media and Sports Department. The museum is the house of one of the most complete art display and artifacts from across the continents. The admissions to the museum is completely free.

British Museum History

  • The foundation of the British Museum was from a mere collection of Sir Hans Sloan. Sloan’s collection included of a variety of dried plants, animals and skeletons of humans. He also gathered a collection of curiosities
  • The collections of Sir Robert Harley and those of Sir Robert Cotton was also the origin of the British Museum
  • The journey to the British Museum takes you to the human history.
Established 1753
Location Great Russell Street, London WC1, England, UK
Collection Size 7 million objects
Visitor Figures 6,049,000 (2007–2008)
5,569,981 (2009)
  • Ranked 1st nationally
  • Ranked 2nd globally
Director Neil MacGregor
Public Transit Access Holborn
Tottenham Court Road
Russell Square

The British Museum Contains various departments, named after the places where the artifacts originated.

British Museum Opening Hours

Opening Times

The Museum is open daily, 10.00–17.30

Closure of galleries will start 10 minutes before

The Published Closing Time:

Saturday – Thursday, 17.20
Friday, 20.20 (except Good Friday)

The Museum is Closed On - 1 January, 24, 25, 26 December

Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan

  • Apart from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo , the British Museum has the world’s largest collection of Egyptian antiquities.
  • The first important group of sculptures acquired by the British Museum were the Rosetta Stone.
  • Among the seven permanent Egyptian galleries of the British Museum, the second gallery has a selection of 140 mummies and coffins.

Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities

  • With over 100,000 objects from the classical world, the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities of the British Museum have the largest collection of antiquities.
  • The most important sculptures of the Greek are from the Parthenon in Athens.
  • The Greek collection also includes ancient jewellery, Greek vases, and Roman glass.

Department of the Middle East

  • The Department of the Middle East of the British Museum consists of collections from the Islamic World and depicts the Islamic culture.
  • Outside Iraq , the Mesopotamian antiquities form the largest collections of the British Museum.
  • The most comprehensive items are the holdings of Assyrian, Babylonian, and Sumerian antiquities.
  • The museum’s collection also includes Islamic pottery, paintings, tiles, metalwork, glass.

Departments of Prints and Drawings

  • The national collection of Western Prints and Drawings forms the Department of Prints and Drawings of the British Museum.
  • The general public can see the paintings as they are in the Study Room.
  • The exhibition gallery is the another feature of the Department
  • The Department also consists of drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo and the collections of printmakers such as Durer.

Department of Asia

The Department of Asia includes the collections of sculptures from the Indian subcontinent, collections of Buddhist paintings from Dunhuang, a collection of Chinese antiquities and a collection of the Japanese art.

Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas

  • The Department consists of the collections of Ethnographic material from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas which represents the cultures of indigenous people.
  • The Sainsbury African galleries of the British Museum has the greatest collection of African arts in the world.

Department of Coins and Medals

  • Department of Coins and medals contain numismatic collections comprising of coins from 7th century BC onwards.

Department of Prehistory and Europe

  • This Department in British Museum holds vast collection from prehistoric time and showcases the life and time of nomadic man.

Department of Conservation and Scientific Research

This department in British Museum analyses the origin and develops methods to find products used in the making, the place it originated and the date of manufacture. It also has a publishing wing to print the information.

Today the British Museum is one of the world’s largest museums and covers an area of approximately 75000 m2 and is still expanding.

British Museum Highlights of the Collections

  • The Rosetta Stone (196 BC)
  • Limestone statue of a husband and wife (1300 BC)
  • Colossal bust of Ramesses II, the "Younger Memnon" (1250 BC)
  • Colossal granite head of Amenhotep III (1350 BC)
  • Colossal head from a statue of Amenhotep III (1350 BC)
  • Colossal limestone bust of Amenhotep III (1350 BC)
  • Saite Sarcophagus of Satsobek
  • Mummy of 'Ginger' which dates to about 3300 BC
  • List of the kings of Egypt from the Temple of Ramesses II (1250 BC)
  • Limestone false door of Ptahshepses (2380 BC)
  • Granite statue of Senwosret III (1850 BC)
  • Mummy of Cleopatra from Thebes (100 AD)
  • Amarna tablets (Collection of 95 out of 382 tablets found, second greatest in the world after the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin (203 tablets) (1350 BC)
  • Obelisk of Pharaoh Nectanebo II (360–343 BC)
  • Gayer-Anderson cat

Key Highlights of the Collections


Alabaster Bas-Reliefs From:

  • The North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II
  • Central- Palace of Tiglath-Pileser III
  • South-West Palace of Esarhaddon
  • Palace of Adad-Nirari III
  • South-East Palace ('Burnt Palace')
  • The Nabu Temple (Ezida)
  • The Sharrat-Niphi Temple
  • Temple of Ninurta


  • Pair of Human Headed 'Lamassu' Lions (883-859 BC)
  • Human Headed 'Lamassu' Bull (883-859 BC), sister piece in The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Human Headed 'Lamassu' Lion (883-859 BC), sister piece in The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Colossal Statue of a Lion (883-859 BC)
  • Rare Head of Human Headed 'Lamassu', recovered from the South-West Palace of Esarhaddon
  • The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (858-824 BC)


Alabaster Bas-Reliefs From:

  • North-Palace of Ashurbanipal
  • Royal Lion Hunt Scenes
  • The 'Dying Lion', long been acclaimed as a masterpiece
  • The 'Garden Party' Relief
  • South-West Palace of Sennacherib

Royal Library of Ashurbanipal:

  • A large collection of cuneiform tablets of enormous importance approximately 22,000 inscribed clay tablets
  • The Flood Tablet, relating part of the famous Epic of Gilgamesh


  • Alabaster bas-reliefs from the Palace of Sargon II
  • Pair of Human Headed Winged 'Lamassu' Bulls
Wider Collection:
  • Cyrus Cylinder, from Babylon
  • The Balawat Gates of Shalmaneser III
  • A fine collection of Urartian bronzes, which now form the core of the Anatolian collection
  • The Oxus Treasure
  • The Standard of Ur
  • The 'Ram in a Thicket'
  • The Royal Game of Ur
  • Queen's Lyre

British Museum Floor Directory

British Museum Upper Floor

Level 5 Level 4
Rooms 92-94 Japan Room 90 Prints and Drawings
Room 91 EXHIBITION: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead.
4 November 2010- 6 March 2011 Room 38-9 Clocks and Watches Room 40 Medieval Europe Room 41 Europe AD 300-1100 Room 45 The Waddesdon Bequest Room 46 Europe 1400-1800 Room 47 Europe 1800-1900 Room 48 Europe 1900 to the present Room 49 Roman Britain Room 50 Britain and Europe 800 BC-AD 43 Room 51 Ancient Europe 4000-800 BC Room 52 Ancient Iran Room 53 Ancient South Arabia Room 54 Ancient Turkey Room 55 Mesopotamia 1500-539 BC Room 56 Mesopotamia 6000 - 1500 BC Room 57-9 Ancient Levant Room 68 Money Room 69 Greek and Roman life Room 69a EXHIBITION: Ruin and rebellion: uncovering the past at Tutbury Castle 9 July 2009 – 21 March 2010 Room 70 Roman Empire Room 71 Etruscan world Room 72 Ancient Cyprus Room 73 Greeks in Italy

British Museum Ground Floor

Level 2 Level 1 Level 0
Room 67 Korea
Room 95 Chinese Ceramics
Room 33 China, India, South Asia and Southeast Asia
Room 33a Amaravati
Room 1 Enlightenment
Room 2 The Changing Museum
Room 3 EXHIBITION: The Asahi Shimbun Displays: Objects in focus
Room 4 Egyptian sculpture
Room 6 Assyrian sculpture and Balawat Gates
Rooms 7-8 Assyria: Nimrud
Room 9 Assyria: Nineveh
Room 10 Assyria: Lion hunts
Room 11 Cycladic Islands
Room 12 Greece: Minoans and Mycenaeans
Room 13 Greece 1050-520 BC
Room 14 Greek vases
Room 15 Athens and Lycia
Room 16 Greece: Bassae Sculptures
Room 17 Nereid Monument
Room 18 Greece: Parthenon
Room 19 Greece: Athens
Room 20 Greeks and Lycians 400-325 BC
Room 21 Mausoleum of Kalikarnassos
Room 22 The world of Alexander
Room 23 Greek and Roman sculpture
Room 24 Living and Dying
Stairs down to Room 25 Africa
Room 26 North America
Room 27 Mexico
Room 33b Chinese jade

British Museum Lower Floor

Level -1 Level -2
Room 25 and Clore Education Centre only
Ford Centre for Young Visitors Clore Education Centre
Room 25 Africa
Room 77 Greek and Roman architecture
Room 78 Classical Inscriptions
Room 82 Early Ephesus
Room 83-4 Roman sculpture
Room 85 Roman portraits

British Museum Transport Connections

London Buses British Museum 7
London Underground Holborn
Tottenham Court Road
Russell Square

List of Directors of the British Museum

Principal Librarian of the British Museum (1756)

  • 1756–1772 Gowin Knight
  • 1772–1776 Matthew Maty
  • 1776–1799 Charles Morton
  • 1799–1827 Joseph Planta
  • 1827–1856 Henry Ellis
  • 1856–1866 Anthony Panizzi
  • 1866–1873 John Winter Jones
  • 1873–1888 Edward Augustus Bond
  • 1888–1898 Edward Maunde Thompson

Director and Principal Librarian of the British Museum (1898)

  • 1898–1909 Edward Maunde Thompson
  • 1909–1931 Frederic George Kenyon
  • 1931–1936 George Francis Hill
  • 1936–1950 John Forsdyke
  • 1950–1959 Thomas Downing Kendrick
  • 1959–1969 Frank Francis
  • 1969–1974 John Wolfenden

Director of the British Museum (1973)

  • 1974–1977 John Pope-Hennessy
  • 1977–1992 David M. Wilson
  • 1992–2002 Robert Anderson
  • 2002–present Neil MacGregor