The Eastern Zoological Gallery in the East Wing of The British Museum, a coloured engraving
Published in London Interiors ... (London, 1841)
The two-storey East Wing of The British Museum was designed and built by Robert Smirke between 1823 and 1828. The lower floor was filled by the King's Library, while the upper floor was fitted out as exhibition galleries by 1831.
Originally, this upper floor was intended for the national collection of paintings. However, it was soon decided to house this growing art collection away from the Museum, in the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. The space was then given over to the Museum's Natural History Department for the display of the Mineral collection.
In 1838 the Mineral collection were transferred to the newly completed North Wing and the Zoological collections were moved into the East Wing. The new Eastern Zoological Gallery proved a favourite for visitors as it housed the popular collection of stuffed birds. Also, above the wall cases, were displayed the Museum's collection of portrait paintings. Kings and Queens hung next to such notables as William Shakespeare, Sir Hans Sloane, Sir Francis Drake and John Gutenberg. The portraits followed the other paintings to Trafalgar Square in 1877, to hang in the National Portrait Gallery.
When the Zoological collections moved to a new museum in South Kensington during the early 1880s the gallery was used to display the Museum's collection of Ethnographic objects. Today it houses the Prehistoric and Romano-British collections, and antiquities from Western Asia.
M. Caygill and C. Date, Building the British Museum (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)