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The British Museum

The British Museum in London is one of the world's largest and most
important museums of human history and culture. It has more than seven
million objects from all continents. They illustrate and document the story of
human culture from its beginning to the present. As with all other national
museums and art galleries in Britain, the Museum charges no admission fee.
The British Museum set up in 1753 and opened in 1759. It was the first
museum in the world to be open to everyone. The museum gradually grew
over the next two hundred years. It has nearly six million visitors a year and is
the third most popular art museum in the world.
Some of the museum's most popular and important exhibits include the
Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles.
History
The history of the British Museum began with the English physicist Hans
Sloane, who died aged 93 in 1753. During his life, he had collected many
important things from all around the world. When he died, he did not want his
collection to be split up between his relatives. He sold his collection to the
parliament of King George II. The parliament set up the British Museum to
hold the collection. By the time he died, Sloane had collected over 80,000
objects from all over the world including Egypt, Greece, Rome and the
Americas. The collection was mostly books and manuscripts. There were
many important archaeological pieces included as well.
The Rosetta Stone on display in the Museum in 1874.
The government looked at many possible places to build the new museum,
including Buckingham House, which later became Buckingham
Palace.Eventually a building called Montagu House was chosen. The Museum
opened on the 15th of January 1759, although all visitors had to be shown
around by stewards. Over the years the museum began to concentrate more
and more on historical objects and sculptures. For this reason they were given
the Rosetta Stone by King George III in 1802. The Rosetta Stone had
previously been important to French historians trying understand the
Hieroglyph language written by the Ancient Egyptians. In 1816 the Museum
acquired the Elgin Marbles from Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin. Elgin had
taken them from the Parthenon in Athens, Greece several years earlier. Many
people disagreed with the way Elgin took them from Greece. They compared
his acts to looting and vandalism. People still argue about this issue today.In
1822 King George III donated the entire Royal Library to the museum. This
contained over 65,000 books and pamphlets. In 1823 the original building was
demolished and work began on new buildings to hold the ever growing

collection. Some of the space was freed up when the National Gallery opened
in 1824, as many of the Museum's paintings and drawings were moved there.
New building and expansion
A drawing of the Museum under construction in 1828
The Museums collection continued to get bigger over the following years, and
more and more buildings were added to hold the new objects. Important
discoveries by people working for the British Museum included the Mausoleum
of Halicarnassus by Charles Newton in 1857 and the Temple of Artemis in
1869. Many things found at these sites were taken to the Museum, where they
have remained ever since. In 1852 the British Museum's famous round
Reading Room was opened. It had enough space to display a million books at
once. The collection continued to get bigger and bigger. Eventually the Natural
History Museum was set up in 1887 to hold the natural parts of the Museum's
collection. It was around this time that electric lights were first put in the
Museum. It was one of the first public places in England to do so. In the early
1900s the Museum's board of directors bought all the houses surrounding it,
knocked them all down and built over them. In 1939, just before the start of
World War II, most of the Museum's exhibits were taken to other places
because the directors were worried the Nazis might bomb the Museum during
the Blitz. The exhibits were stored in old London Underground stations, as well
as other places. The evacuation proved to be a good idea, as parts of the
Museum were destroyed by bombs in 1940.
Into the modern day
The completed Great Court in 2007.
Much of the 1950s was spent fixing the parts of the Museum destroyed by the
bombing, and bringing back the pieces that had been taken away. During all
this time the collection continued to get bigger, although space was slowly
running out for all the books being brought in. The British Library was set up in
1973 to deal with this problem. In 1972 the Museum was loaned the
Tutankhamun collection from the Museum of Cairo. They held a big exhibition
called 'The Treasures of Tutankhamun' and it attracted over 1.5 million people
to come and see it. In 1998 the central courtyard, which had been unused
before, was turned into the Great Court with the Reading Room at its centre.
The Great Court has over 2 acres of space under its roof. This makes it the
largest covered public space in Europe. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth II
in January 2000. Since then the Museum has collected more things to do with
history, rather than more modern pieces. They now have a large collection of
Roman British, Ancient Greek and Ancient Egyptian artefacts, as well as
objects from many other cultures and times around the world.

Departments
A giant sculpture of Ramesses II. It is nearly 2.7 metres (10 foot) tall and
weighs about 7.5 tonnes. It is on display in Room 4 of the British Museum's
Egyptian department.
Because of its extremely large size the Museum's collection is split into many
parts, called departments. The departments have changed many times over
the years. They are sometimes merged together, split into smaller
departments or renamed and changed altogether.
Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan
The British Museums department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan is one of the
biggest collections of Ancient Egyptian art in the world. Only the Egyptian
Museum in Cairo has a bigger collection. They cover Egyptian and Sudanese
history from around 10000 BC all the way to the 12th century AD, a period of
around 12,000 years.
Around 150 of the objects in the Egyptian department were part of the first
collection which was given to the Museum by Hans Sloane in 1753. In 1801
the British defeated the French, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, at the battle of
the Nile. After the battle, British forces took lots of Ancient Egyptian artifacts
from the defeated French. They were given to the British Museum in
1803.These objects included the famous Rosetta Stone.
The department continued to get bigger, paying for archaeologists to go to
Egypt and Sudan. They did this until 2001 when the Egyptian government
made it much harder for Museums to take historical artefacts back to their own
country. The collection now has over 110,000 exhibits.
Department of Greece and Rome
Statue of Maussollos, king of Caria. It is on display in Room 21 of the Greek
and Rome department of the British Museum.
The British Museum's department of Greece and Rome is one of the biggest
collections of Ancient Greek and Roman objects in the world. The objects
come from nearly 4000 years of European history, from 3200 BC all the way to
the 4th century AD.
It contains parts of two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; the
Mausoleum at Halikarnassos and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos. It also
had many pieces taken from the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. Like the rest of
the Museum the department gets most of its collection from excavations or the
acquiring of private collections. Some of the earliest objects in the collection
were bought from the collection of Sir William Hamilton in 1772. In recent
years the Museum's rules on how it can get objects have become much
stricter. Other countries rules on allowing Museums to take objects away have
also got stricter. This has meant the British Museum has gradually taken fewer
items each year in recent times

Department of the Middle East


The Cyrus Cylinder on display in Room 52 of the British Museum. It is often
seen as the first written example of human rights from anywhere in the world.
The British Museum Department of the Middle East has the largest collection
of Mesopotamian art in the world, outside Iraq. It has some 300,000 objects,
covering the Neolithic period until present. It has objects from all over the
Middle East including Mesopotamia (Iraq), Anatolia (Turkey), Levant (Syria,
Lebanon and Jordan) and some pieces from central Asia. The Assyrian and
Sumerian collections are also some of the biggest in the world.
Key objects in the collection include:
The Cyrus Cylinder, a cylindrical scroll from 539 BC. Written on it is the story
of Cyrus, king of Babylon. He gave rights back to the people of Assyria after
the previous king enslaved them and burned their temples.
Several ten feet tall statues of lions and bulls with human heads.
The fifteen foot high bronze gates of the fortress of Galawat.