The British Museum London Architecture, Interior & USPs
The British Museum is certainly one of London’s many intriguing museums (more than 200 in all). The incredible artefacts housed in the British Museum date back more than two million years, spanning the whole history of humanity. It is located in the heart of Camden’s Bloomsbury neighbourhood. The collection attracts around six million people a year who see things like the Parthenon sculptures, the Rosetta Stone, and Egyptian mummies.
Around eight million artefacts and art from as far back as the Stone Age may be found at the British Museum. It also represents the long British customs of adventuring, oddball behaviour, and compulsive collecting. You could spend weeks discovering the place!
Architecture Of The British Museum
The massive architecture reviving the Greek style is a landmark in Bloomsbury, a district of London that is home to some of the best British universities – The British Museum!
You wouldn’t expect anything like this in the centre of London due to its atypically huge size, four enormous wings, 43 columns reminiscent of Greek temples, triangle-shaped pediment, and gigantic stairs.
In 1823, Sir Robert Smirke, an architect, created this structure of such richness!
In 1852, the structure was finished employing cutting-edge construction methods, including concrete floors, a cast-iron frame filled in with London stock brick, and for the facade, Portland stone was used.
The two recent developments were the Great Court, a design by Norman Foster that debuted in 2000, and the spherical Reading Room with a dome-shaped ceiling.
All About the Interiors: British Museum London
Let us look at the museum’s main parts and all we need to know about their design, interiors and craftsmanship.
An architect, Sir Robert Smirke (1780-1867), designed the main part of the current structure in 1823. This quadrant has four sides (to the north, east, south, and west).
In 1852, the structure was finally finished. Residences for the workers were included beside galleries displaying ancient Assyrian and classical sculpture.
Smirke styled the structure after ancient Greek architecture with his Greek Revival design. The building’s South front entry contains Greek columns and a pediment.
In the 1750s, when western Europe rediscovered Greece and its historic sites, this fashion began to rise in popularity.
The most cutting-edge 1820s construction techniques were used to create this structure. The structure’s foundation is concrete, and the cast-iron framework is filled with London stock brick. Portland stone was used to clad the building’s exterior and main walkways.
The quadrilateral structure was awarded the Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1853.
The King’s Library
In 1823, George IV gave the country his father’s library, housed in the King’s Library, which was constructed with parliamentary funding. Sir Robert Smirke’s initial stage of the British Museum’s renovation project was this elaborate chamber.
It was built in 1851 as a storage and work room and temporarily opened to the public that year. Beginning in 1857, the general public had unrestricted access. In 1931, the area was mostly used to display books, manuscripts, prints, and drawings.
During World War II, there was some damage. The building was used for Library exhibits after the British Library opened in 1973. However, it was eventually shut down when books and the British Library relocated to St. Pancras. It now serves as the backdrop for an exhibition focusing on the European Enlightenment.
South Entrance and Museum Forecourt
The British museum’s exterior was meticulously planned to symbolise the institution’s internal mission. The grand staircase, colonnade, and pediment of the South entry were designed to symbolise the extraordinary treasures inside.
The columns’ design comes straight from ancient Greek temples, and the pediment atop the structure is typical of traditional Greek architecture.
The homes east and west of the entryway (to the left and right, respectively) could be more impressive outside.
This is typical of home architecture from the middle of the nineteenth century and is appropriate given the intended use of these wings. When the Museum first opened, its workers resided there.
Weston Hall Of The British Museum
Sydney Smirke succeeded his brother Sir Robert Smirke as Weston Hall’s architect in 1845.
The elaborate decoration of ancient Greek structures inspired the Weston Hall ceiling’s patterns and colours.
Electric lights in the lobby are faithful reproductions of the British museum’s historic light fixtures. Electricity was first used to illuminate a public building at the Museum.
Reading Room Of The British Museum
In 1854, construction on the Reading Room started based on a design by Sydney Smirke (1798-1877). It took three years, but finally, it was finished. It was a technological marvel in its day, with cast iron, concrete, glass, and cutting-edge heating and cooling systems.
The circumference of the space was 42.6m (140ft), modelled after Rome’s domed Pantheon. However, it is not a true standalone dome.
It features a cast-iron skeleton and has been built in sections. The paper-mâché roof is supported by cast-iron struts that extend from the ceiling to the floor.
The area around the Reading Room was filled with bookcases. Iron was used in their construction to support the books and keep them safe from flames.
There were enough shelves and bookshelves to stretch over 25 miles (40 km).
White Wing Of The British Museum
The White Wing of the British museum was built in 1882–1885, with a front that looked out onto Montague Street and was created by architect Sir John Taylor. Buildings in the quadrangle inspired its design.
After the death of William White’s wife, a gift he had prepared to fund construction works at the British Museum (he had died in 1823) became available.
White requested a grand entry (the stairs leading up to the entrance) and an inscription while discussing the building’s layout (which is above the doorway). The two of them are seen from Montague Street.
King Edward VII’s Galleries
The King Edward VII galleries were planned as a bigger addition to the British Museum’s north side and were created by Sir John Burnet.
These galleries and the northern entrance are primarily defined by imperialistic aspects, drawing on Roman rather than Greek qualities.
Stonework above the north entrance displays sculptures of crowns, lions’ heads, and Edward VII’s coats of arms, while the royal coat of arms is shown over the gallery’s entrance.
The north door was never meant to be used by the general public. Instead, this gallery and entrance were designed to face a large roadway that would serve as the route for a triumphant procession. Above the north entrance is the saluting gallery, a visual representation of this overarching plan.
The Duveen Gallery Of The British Museum
In 1931, Sir Joseph (later Lord) Duveen provided funding for building a brand new gallery to house the sculptures from the Parthenon. It was designed by American architect John Russell Pope.
The Duveen gallery was finished in the year 1939 but was inaugurated in 1962 due to wartime damage.
The Great Court of Queen Elizabeth II, created by Foster & Partners, was first inaugurated in 2000.
In 1857, the courtyard was abandoned and never rediscovered. Thanks to the renovations, this hitherto unseen area of the Court is now accessible to the public.
The Court’s layout was inspired, at least in part, by Foster’s plans for the Reichstag dome in Berlin. The design was based on the idea that the visitor would be treated to a different perspective with each step they took in the Great Court.
In September 1999, construction started on the Great Court’s stunning glass and steel roof. A computer programme created the canopy and set it up. There are 3,312 individual pieces of glass that went into its creation, and no two are the same.
The Great Court added two acres to the Museum’s public area, doubling the room on the first floor and providing visitors with more freedom of movement for the first time in 150 years.
USPs Of The British Museum: You Cannot Miss This!
Don’t miss the best of what the museum offers, from the Rosetta Stone to Grayson Perry’s The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman!
1. Rosetta Stone (In Room 4)
French troops unearthed the Rosetta Stone in Egypt in 1799. It is an ancient Egyptian artefact. An edict from the Egyptian priesthood is written on it in hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek.
The stone helped scholars learn to read hieroglyphics, the writing system of ancient Egypt because the same message was written in all three scripts. This revealed the world of ancient Egypt, from its ancient past to its ideas about the afterlife.
2. Sophilos Vase
This magnificent ancient Greek bowl and pedestal were designed to serve wine and water during a celebration. It’s estimated that they were created in Athens around about 580 BC. The words “Sophilos made me” are etched on the vessel, giving it the artist’s name.
The wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the heroes’ parents, is shown on the vase’s decoration. The legendary hero was a renowned fighter in Homer’s epic The Iliad, which recounts the events of the Trojan War.
3. The Parthenon Sculptures
Originally installed at the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, these ancient Greek marble sculptures are today often referred to as the “Elgin Marbles.” In the early 19th century, British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, took them from the temple.
They were acquired by the British government and have been on exhibit in the British Museum in London since 1817. A dispute has arisen about who should possess the statues, with the Greek government demanding that they be returned home.
4. Grayson Perry’s The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman (In Room 17)
Grayson Perry, a Trustee of the British Museum and winner of the Turner Prize, created this piece now on loan to the museum. The memorial sculpture, which depicts a ship made of iron sailing out into the distance, is dedicated to the many anonymous men and women who worked so hard to create the works of art on display at the museum.
The piece will be on exhibit in Room 17, right next to the Nereid Monument, an ancient structure in western Turkey that was constructed sometime between 390 and 300 BC. To honour a long-dead local monarch, artists whose identities have been forgotten erected and sculpted the Nereid Monument.
5. Crouching Venus
This statue of Aphrodite, or Venus as the Romans knew her, dates back to the second century AD and is a Roman adaptation of an older Greek original. Lost since before 100 BC, the original was likely constructed of marble or metal in ancient Greece around that time.
Many depictions of Aphrodite include her with Eros, the Greek god of love, or cupids and doves. Here, the statue turns the spectator into a snoop, catching the goddess off guard while she’s in the bath. You can also check roman architecture here.
From the Royal Collection, this sculpture is on permanent loan to the museum.
The British Museum’s Other Notable Displays
Are you still hungry for more after seeing the British Museum’s most famous displays? The following items represent the British museum’s breadth of collections and the variety of available displays.
Mausoleum of Halikarnassos – Room 21
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was commissioned by King Maussollos of Ancient Greece and his wife. The first image depicts fragments of a colossal horse, and the second image shows marble statues from Mausoleum of Halikarnassos.
Portland Vase – Room 70
This Roman vase, which is on display in the British museum, is one of the greatest examples of its kind, and it has inspired generations of glass artists.
Lewis Chessmen – Room 40
Another depiction at the British Museum is the miniature chess pieces made of walrus ivory and whale teeth, fashioned by Norse craftsmen.
Oxus Treasure – Room 52
The Chariot sculpture is people’s favourite among over 180 pieces discovered on the Oxus river, which is currently on display in the British museum.
Tree of Life – Room 25
Among the most cutting-edge artefacts ever crafted, it’s fashioned from obsolete weaponry used in the Mozambican civil war is present in the British museum.
Also Read: What Is a Queenslander House? History, Key Elements & More
That’s all there is to it. This wraps up our recommendations for what to see at the British Museum. Now you may see everything in one go without any problem at all.
Artefacts are often on loan to other museums or taken off of permanent display for conservation purposes due to the British Museum’s collaborations with other major institutions across the globe.
Museums are responsible for updating their collections in response to shifting cultural attitudes worldwide.
Thus, we recommend going as soon as possible and making many trips. Thanks to a programme funded by the British government, anybody may see the collection at no cost in the British museum and marvel at its incredible contents!
1. What Are the Opening Hours of the British Museum?
The British Museum is open every day from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm, except on December 24th and 25th.
2. Is There an Admission Fee to Enter the British Museum?
No, admission to the British Museum is free, but some special exhibitions may have an admission fee.
3. Is Photography Allowed in the British Museum?
Yes, photography is allowed in the British Museum, but flash photography and tripods are not permitted in certain areas.
4. Is there a gift shop at the British Museum?
Yes, the British Museum has a gift shop that sells a wide range of items, including books, souvenirs, and gifts related to the museum’s collections.
5. Are There Any Restaurants or Cafes at the British Museum?
Yes, the British Museum has several restaurants and cafes, including the Great Court Restaurant and the Court Cafe.
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