British images, poems and quotations, £9.99
The Main Entrance Hall, a photograph
The British Museum, London, England, AD 1929
A very cramped hall
The Main Entrance Hall has seen many changes since it opened in 1847. It was originally just two bays deep, and was decorated in a classical design of red, blue, green and gold. The Hall led out into an open courtyard, but in 1857 a passageway was made into the new Reading Room. During the late 1870s the Hall was extended even further back. During the work on the Great Court in 1998-2000, this 1870s extension was removed and the original inner south portico was restored.
This photograph shows a very cramped Entrance Hall in 1929. During opening hours this was full of visitors. On the right, the bookstall has a selection of books and postcards - look for the replica statue of the Greek poet Sophokles on the counter.
The number of visitors to the Museum was increasing, and its public profile was high. Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1924 increased public interest in Egyptian objects. That year the British Empire Exhibition, like the Great Exhibition of 1851, drew crowds to London. In 1928 an exhibition of material from the Royal Graves of Ur attracted even more visitors to the Museum. The following year the rising film director Alfred Hitchcock featured the Museum in his first partially sound film, Blackmail.
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)