Sir Hans Sloane lived from 1660 to 1753 and was a physician, a naturalist and a collector. It was he who left the origins of the British Museum in his Will, with a collection of more then 71,000 objects, as well as a library and herbarium to be preserved.
He left it for King George II, for the nation, in return for a large sum of money to his heirs. If King George II refused, it would be offered to the centers of learning abroad. This lead to the collection of items to be looked after by the Museum. In 1759, the Museum was housed in a 17th Century mansion called the Montague House in Bloomsbury.
This is the same site where the Museum is housed today. It opened its doors to the public and with the exception of two World Wars; it has remained open ever since. Today, 5 million people visit the British Museum on a yearly basis.
From the beginning, the British Museum was looked after by a body of Trustees, who were answerable to Parliament. The collections themselves belonged to the nation, with free admission for all. The library and information on the collections is kept in a grand room known as the Reading Room. The first student’s room was opened in 1808 and is known as the Prints and Drawings room.
In 1772, the Sir William Hamilton collection of Greek Vases and other antiquities was purchased. Soon after the Rosetta Stoneand other Egyptian antiquities were acquired. In 1805, classical sculptures were bought, known as the Townly collection, and in 1816, the sculptures of the Parthenon were bought.
By the middle of the 1800’s the museum needed expansion, and it was Sir Robert Smirke who took the challenge. He designed the quadrangular building and the first phase was complete in 1852. Robert’s brother Sydney designed the round Reading Room in 1854 to 1857.
In 1851, Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks was appointed and expanded the museum into subjects such as both British and European prehistory, oriental art, archaeology and ethnography. Eventually with the growth, the natural history collection was moved to a new building and became it’s own museum, known as the Natural History Museum.
Since the very start, the Museum has done nothing but expand and be the center of activity. Discoveries and expansions on previous discoveries have been made in the Museum. Great scientists and archeologist have had the privilege to work there. The museum has gone from strength to strength and with the current attendance statistics, appears to still be growing.
Source by Celeste Yates