The Arched Room in The British Museum, a coloured engraving

Published in London Interiors ... (London, 1841)

A grand room, now used by the Department of the Ancient Near East

The Arched Room in The British Museum was built between 1837 and 1839. It formed the ground floor of the north west extension to the Museum building designed by Sir Robert Smirke. The room was used for book storage until the British Library moved to a new building in St Pancras in 1998. Though this was never a public area, for a few years interested visitors could ask for a guided tour. During the Great Exhibition of 1851 there were many tours of library areas which were usually closed. At the time the Illustrated London News featured the Arched Room, saying that:

'The double galleries of this handsome apartment produce an impression of additional height, while their pierced iron floors and the arching of the piers of the recesses give the room an appearance of lightness and elegance.'

This coloured print was made for the book London Interiors with their costumes and ceremonies from drawings made by permission of the public offices, proprietors and trustees of the Metropolitan buildings (London, 1841).

The Arched Room is now used by the Department of the Middle East as a Students' room, Departmental library and Archive. It also stores the reserve collection of cuneiform tablets.

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More information


M. Caygill, The story of The British Museu (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)

M. Caygill and C. Date, Building the British Museum (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)


Height: 250.000 mm
Width: 185.000 mm

Museum number

Archives C/1/3


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