British Museum Collections

Classical colonnade, British Museum

  1. Middle East

    Some 6,000 years of history start with the spectacular carved reliefs from the Assyrian palace of Nineveh.

  2. Ancient Egyptian and Sudanese

    Mummies and sarcophagi are among 70,000 objects in one of the world’s greatest collections.

  3. Greek and Roman Antiquities

    Highlights from the Classical world (c.3000 BC to c.AD 400) include the Parthenon sculptures and exquisite Greek and Roman vases.

  4. Japanese and Oriental Antiquities

    Buddhist limestone reliefs from India, Chinese antiquities, Islamic pottery and a Japanese collection so large it has to be shown on a rotating basis.

  5. Ethnography

    An incredible 350,000 objects from indigenous people around the world. The Africa gallery holds a fine array of art and artifacts.

  6. Prehistory and Europe

    Covering a long period from prehistoric cave dwellers to the modern day, this collection includes Lindow Man, a 2,000-year-old body found preserved in a peat bog, the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial and some fine decorative arts including medieval jewellery and Renaissance clocks.

  7. Coins and Medals

    A comprehensive collection of more than 750,000 coins and medals dating from the 7th century BC to the present day.

  8. Prints and Drawings

    Priceless prints and drawings from the Renaissance form part of this rotating collection.

  9. Enlightenment

    This exhibition features the museum’s 18th-century collections from around the world.

  10. The Joseph Hotung Great Court Gallery

    This small gallery is used for temporary exhibitions.

The Great Court

A magnificent glass-roofed addition encloses the heart of the British Museum. Opened in December 2000, the Great Court was designed by architect Sir Norman Foster. In the centre of the Court is the domed Reading Room, built in 1857. Holding one of the world’s most important collections of books and manuscripts, the Reading Room has been the workplace of some of London’s greatest writers. Having been used as temporary exhibition space for major exhibitions, it reverted to its normal use in 2009. The Great Court is the capital’s largest covered square and contains shops, cafés and the British Museum’s main information desk, supplying visitors with everything they need for an informed visit.

The Reading Room at the centre of the Great Court Top 10 Library Readers
  1. Karl Marx (1818–83) German revolutionary

  2. Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948), Indian leader

  3. Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), playwright and wit

  4. Virginia Woolf (1882–1941), Bloomsbury novelist

  5. WB Yeats (1865–1939), Irish poet and playwright

  6. Thomas Hardy (1840–1928), English novelist

  7. George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), Irish playwright

  8. EM Forster (1879–1970), English novelist

  9. Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) Poet, novelist and chronicler of Empire

  10. Leon Trotsky (1879–1940), Russian revolutionary

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