The British Museum, which also houses the British Library, is one of London's greatest tourist attractions. The Museum itself has one of the finest collections in the world covering the art and antiquities of Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, the Roman Empire, Southern and Southeast Asia, China and the European medieval period. The Library has additional exhibition rooms.
British Museum Map
Official site: www.britishmuseum.org
Address: Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG, England
Opening hours: 10am-5:30pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Christmas Eve - Christian (Dec 24), Good Friday - Christian
Entrance fee: FREE
Useful tips: A leaflet is available with access information for visitors with disabilities. Information on guided tours is available in the main hall.
Disability Access: Partial facilities for persons with disabilities.
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
Facilities: Gift shop, Restaurant or food service
Transit: Underground: Russell Square, Holborn, Tottenham Court Road; bus: Tottenham Court Road, northbound, and Gower Street, southbound: 10, 24, 29, 73, 134; Southampton Row: 68, 91, 188; New Oxford Street: 7, 8, 19, 22b, 25, 38, 55, 98.
British Museum Highlights
A Parliamentary vote in 1972 created the British Library, an amalgamation of the British Museum Library with other major libraries. Since 1757 the British Museum Library has been a library of deposit: it receives a copy of every publication printed in Britain. Its nucleus was formed by the libraries of Sir Robert Cotton, Robert Harley, Sir Hans Sloane and Charles Townley, together with the old Royal Library, presented by George II in 1757. The library of George III (Room 32, British Museum) was acquired in 1823. The Department of Printed Books contains more than 12 million volumes (600,000 are added annually); the Department of Manuscripts more than 70,000 volumes and 100,000 manuscripts and papyri; the Department of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books more than 35,000 manuscripts and 250,000 printed books. Some of the more exceptional and valuable volumes are exhibited in Rooms 29 to 32a of the British Museum. On a par with the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the British Library is one of the finest in Europe. A move to new buildings near St Pancras station is planned for 1993-96; this will increase the space of the British Museum by some 40 per cent.The circular Reading Room, where Karl Marx worked on "Das Kapital", is reserved for those wishing to use the library, but visitors may look in briefly.Also on display are manuscripts by, among others, Charles Dickens and Laurence Sterne, the original "Messiah" by Handel, John Lennon's song "Yesterday" for the Beatles, Lord Nelson's last letter to Lady Hamilton, Alexander Fleming's notes on the discovery of penicillin, Isaac Newton's first observations on the force of gravity and notes by Leondardo da Vinci. In the adjoining Room 30a, exhibits of priceless illustrated Bibles and Books of Hours include the Lindisfarne Gospels, a manuscript dating from the early eighth century which belonged to Bishop Eadfrith of Lindisfarne.
Address: St Pancras, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB, England
Opening hours: 10am-5:30pm; Thu: 10am-8:30pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Christmas Eve - Christian (Dec 24), Good Friday - Christian
Entrance fee: FREE
Transit: Underground: Russell Square, Holborn, Tottenham Court Road.
Room 30 displays many historical, literary, scientific and music manuscripts. Of these the most outstanding exhibits are two of the four original manuscripts of Magna Carta (1215).
A collection of original Beatles manuscripts, including the song "Yesterday", is quite popular.
The broad variety of antique maps to be found at the library is of interest to the lovers of maps and cartography.
A Ship's Clock forms the centerpiece for this collection of clocks and timepieces.
The stamp collection at the British Library is outstanding.
Ancient Greece and Rome
This is the largest section of the British Museum, housing a wide variety of artifacts from ancient Greece and Rome. Of particular note are such treasures as the "Chatsworth" Head of Apollo, the Horse of Selene, the statue of the goddess Demeter and a bronze head of Sophocles.
Room 8 of the British Museum contains the famous "Elgin Marbles", sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens, brought to London by the Earl of Elgin at the beginning of the 19th century and include the "Horse of Selene" from the east pediment. Of the original group of four horses drawing the chariot of Selene (goddess of the moon), two are in Athens; the fourth is lost. The largest remaining section of the Parthenon frieze can also be seen.
Objects found in Athens, including a Caryatid from the Erechtheion of the Acropolis.Room 9
The Portland Vase, named after the Dukes of Portland, dates from the first century B.C. and is one of the most exquisite examples of Roman artistry with glass.Room 70
Room 68 in the British Museum, devoted to terracottas, is dominated by the Head of Aphrodite. The head, found in Satala, Armenia, is double life-size and probably dates from the fourth century B.C.
In the basement (reached through Rooms 12, 16 and 17 of the ground floor) are examples of Assyrian, Greek and Roman art.
The central exhibit displays finds from the Halikarnassos Mausoleum and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesos.
Of particular interest are the colossal bust of Rameses II from Thebes-West and the Rosetta Stone.Although the main treasures of the Rosetta Stone and the Lions of Amenophis are displayed on the lower floor, a fairly large collection of Egyptian artifacts is also well distributed on the upper floor.Among this collection are a variety of Egyptian personal articles such as mirrors and clothing, along with other items such as musical instruments, furniture, papyrus, wall paintings, reliefs, rugs and tapestries.
The Rosetta Stone, found in 1798 at Rosetta in the Nile Delta, is a slab of black basalt dating from 195 B.C. bears a trilingual inscription (in Egyptian hieroglyphic, demotic script and Greek translation) which enabled Champollion to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics.Room 25
Of the many Egyptian antiquities on display in the Museum, the collection of mummies and sarcophagi in rooms 60 and 61 and the papyri of room 62, including the famous Books of the Dead, are noteworthy.
Within this section of the museum, exhibits on prehistoric societies in continental Europe and early Britain contain a variety of artifacts that would have been used in day-to-day activities.
The Mildenhall Treasure, a hoard of Roman silver tableware dating from the fourth century A.D., was found by a farmer while ploughing in Mildenhall, Suffolk, in 1942. Of the 34 pieces, the most impressive is "The Great Dish", a large silver dish embossed with figures of Bacchus, Hercules and other figures from Roman mythology. In the center of the dish a bearded mask, probably representing the sea god Oceanus, is surrounded by nymphs riding on sea monsters.
Sutton Hoo Collection
This room contains exhibits from the Sutton Hoo Treasure: weapons, jewellery and coins dating from the seventh century, found in the grave of an Anglo-Saxon King in Sutton Hoo, Suffolk.Room 41
These rooms are devoted to unique treasures of the Assyrian period. Room 17 houses reliefs depicting a lion hunt from the reign of Assurbanipal. Further reliefs from the Nimrud and Nineveh palaces may be seen in other rooms, as well as the imposing figures of winged bulls with human heads from the Sargon palace in Khorsabad and a black obelisk relating the deeds of Shalmaneser III.Rooms 17-26
Among the various treasures and artifacts that are displayed in this section are such unique treasures as The Royal Gold Cup, the Thorn Reliquary, the Lyte Jewel and the Huguenot silver.
The 12th century chess pieces carved from walrus tusks are of particular interest. They originate from the island of Lewis in the Hebrides.Room 42
A wide variety of Oriental and Asiatic artifacts, mainly metalwork, enamelwork, porcelain and glassware, are found among this collection.Of particular note are such artifacts as the Sambas Treasure of Bhuddist images, the Great Stupa at Amaraviti and the Yuan blue and white porcelain.A visitor should not miss seeing the T'ang horses and camels.
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