25 Fascinating British Museum Facts that you must know!

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25 Fascinating facts about the British Museum in London.

Did you know that the British Museum houses over 8 million objects!? but only 1% of them are on display at any given time. Additonally did you know that it houses exhibits like the Rosetta stone? A stone which was instrumental in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics. Read more such fascinating facts about the British Museum!

1) The most popular tourist attraction in the UK is the British Museum in London. The museum attracts over 7 million individuals annually.

A picture of the British Museum
The British Museum

2) According to the British Museum website, the collection of the museum spans over two million years of human history. Most of the collection is from the era of the British Empire.

An exhibit at the British Museum

3) The British museum recreated the recipe of a 2000-year-old loaf of bread. The Roman loaf of bread was discovered during excavations in Herculaneum.

A picture of baking bread

4) The British Museum is an institution which is older than the United States of America.

A picture of the interiors of the British Museum
Interior of the British Museum

5) A cat named Mike guarded the gates of the museum between the years 1909 to 1929. After its demise, the TIME magazine wrote two obituaries for it. Additionally, Mike is also the most famed British feline of the 20th century.

A picture of Mike the cat
Mike the cat which guarded the British Museum

6) The British Museum is the first National Public Museum in history. The museum was founded in 1753 and opened its doors in 1759, it is the first National museum to cover the entire field of human knowledge. Additionally, it is open to visitors all over the world and it has no fee of admission.

7) During WWII, part of the Piccadilly line was closed and the British Museum artefacts were stored in the empty spaces.

A British Museum Display

8) The British Museum was once going to be located at the now Buckingham Palace. Before opening the museum to the public, it was required to be located at a good site. The Buckingham place was considered first. The same location for the now Buckingham Palace. The trustees then made the decision to move it into the Montagu House where it is situated now.

An old photograph of the Montagu House
A photograph of the Montagu House

9) The collection of the British Museum got so large during one point that they had to build two separate institutions to house the collection; The National History Museum and The British Library.

A picture of an artefact at the National History Museum
An exhibit at the National History Museum

10) The British Museum is one of the first public building in London to use Electric Lighting. In 1879, the museum made use of electric lighting to light up the Reading Room, Front Hall and the Forecourt.

A picture of the British Museum using electric lighting
Electric Lighting at the British Museum

11) The British Museum is the set used in the Popular movie Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014). Additionally, It is the set used in 15 movies! Moreover, around 50 film crews come to the Museum annually for the filming of documentaries and music videos.

A poster of night at the museum
Night at the Museum

12) The British Museum holds the title for the largest indoor space on Google Street View.

13) Contrary to what you thought, the railings of the British Museum are not black but are painted invisible green.

railings of the British Musem
The railings of the British Museum

14) The British Museum once had a room called the Secretum, which housed obscene and erotic items from history. Once upon a time, one required a special pass to view these exhibits. But not anymore! Now, these artefacts are on display throughout the museum. These artefacts include The Warren cup, The Statue of Tara and Pan copulating with a goat.

15) Back in 1912 one had to give a written exam in order to be a part of the staff at the British Museum. If one wanted to work in services such as printing and drawing then you had to answer additional questions.

Some of these questions were ” what was the relationship between a goldsmith and an engraver in 6th century Germany?” or “give a brief account of types of ancient coins?”

A photograph of students writing exams

16) One of the first-ever customer complaints is on display at the British Museum. Basically, a man named Nanni wrote a complaint to his copper merchant around 4000 years ago!

photo of Complaint tablet to Ea-nasir which is at display at the British Museum
Complaint tablet to Ea-nasir displayed at the British Museum

17) The British Museum believes in the policy of sharing is caring. It has loaned around 5000 of its exhibits worldwide.

18) One of the most popular exhibits at the British Museum is the Rosetta stone.

The British Museum houses the Rosetta Stone which dates back to 196 BC. French soldiers discovered it in 1799 and its discovery was game-changing for Egyptology. Essentially, the Rosetta Stone was the key to helping people decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics and unlocking its secrets.

A photo of the Rosetta Stone which is displayed at the British Museum
The Rosetta Stone displayed at the British Museum

19) The most searched terms in the museum’s website are Egypt  (with a whopping 53,000 searches annually) and the Japanese erotic art Shunga.

The bust of Ramesses II at the British Museum
Bust of Ramesses II displayed at the British Museum

20) The roof of the British Museum takes two weeks to clean! The roof consists of 3,312 panes of glass of different sizes. Hence it is no easy feat to clean it.

The picture of the roof of the British Museum
The rood of the British Museum: made of glass and steel

21) The great composer Mozart visited the Museum with his family in the 1760s. The great musician was so enamoured by the art arounf that he gifted the museum a motet as a gift.

Painting of Mozart
The great composer Wolfgang Mozart.

22) The museum’s most popular exhibition was way back in 1972. 1.6 million individuals flocked to the museum to view the collection of the Egyptian Pharoah Tutankhamun. The collection received a lot of public fascination. This is dubbed as the Tutankhamun mania.

A picture of a mummy from the collection of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun
A mummy from the collection of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun

23) The British Museum’s Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan houses the biggest Egyptian collection in the world, second only to Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. Their extensive collection of mummies attracts visitors from all over the world.

 British Museum’s Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan
The British Museum’s Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan

24) Popular street artist Banksy actually pranked the museum back in 2005. He displayed his own art “Early man goes to Market” and deemed it as an ancient artefact. It was only a few days until the staff caught wind of what went underway and promptly removed the piece.

Banksy's art Early man goes to Market
Early man goes to market. Banksy’s version

25) The last in our list of fascinating facts about the British Museum is that the original collection is based on the collections of Sir Hans Sloane, Robert Harley, the 1st earl of Oxford and Sir Robert Cotton.

A portrait of Sir Hans Sloane
Sir Hans Sloane

Want to check out another fascinating museum? Read 17 Guggenheim Museum Facts that will amaze you!

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