Height: 64.000 mm
Width: 98.000 mm
Archives CE114/648 (York Album)
Frederick York, Main Entrance Hall and Grand Staircase, a photograph
London, England, AD 1875
Preparing to welcome the visitors
It is early morning in 1875 in the Main Entrance Hall of The British Museum, and staff are preparing for the public. Until 1878 the Museum was open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and until midday on Saturdays. Tuesdays and Thursdays were reserved for students. The visiting hours varied with the seasons and during the summer months the Museum stayed open until 8 o'clock in the evening.
Staff stop work as the photographer Frederick York sets up his camera. Two men sit comfortably on a bench at the foot of the stairs. Another two, noticing the photographer, stop halfway down the stairs. As the long exposure needed for this early photograph has already started, their images appear faint and ghost-like. In the foreground is the Piranesi Vase which is now displayed in the Enlightenment Gallery.
In 1875 the Museum's Grand Staircase was under threat of demolition, to make way for more exhibition space. Fortunately this scheme was withdrawn. However, changes were necessary and during 1877 the Entrance Hall and the gallery above it were extended northwards into the courtyard. In 1998-2000 this extension was removed and the South Portico rebuilt as part of the Great Court project.