January 15th 1759: British Museum opens

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The British Museum today

On this day in 1759, 255 years ago today, the British Museum was first opened to the public in London. The museum was based on the collections left to the nation by physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane who intended for his possessions to be put on public view.

 

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Hans Sloane (1660 – 1753)

Parliament established the British Museum in June 1753. The collection was housed in a 17th century mansion called Montagu House in Bloomsbury. The original items included items from Aztec Mexico, Ancient Egypt and Japan. The most popular items were the Egyptian mummies. The British Museum is still a major attraction in London with its sizeable collection of artefacts from around the world.

 

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Montagu House by James Simon, 1715

I seem to be posting a fair bit of British history recently but I really couldn’t resist this one. As a Brit and  a history nut I’m a big fan of the British Museum, and visit it often when I’m in London. Despite this I, and many of my compatriots, have serious reservations about the Museum. Many of its artefacts were seized from other nations during the days of the empire. Whilst it is important to remember the stories behind how many of the artefacts ended up in London, the Museum itself is still a wonderful British institution. I urge anyone visiting London to spend some time there, an absolute must for those interested in history.

Finally, check out the Google Doodle for today celebrating the Museum’s 255th anniversary!

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