Visiting the gallery
The Collecting the world gallery celebrates the collectors who help to shape the Museum.
Founded in 1753, the British Museum opened its doors to visitors in 1759. The Museum tells the story of human cultural achievement through a collection of collections. This room celebrates some of the collectors who, in different ways, have shaped the Museum over four centuries, along with individuals and organisations who continue to shape its future.
The adjoining galleries also explore aspects of collecting. Room 1: Enlightenment, tells the story of how, in the early Museum, objects and knowledge were gathered and classified. Room 2a: The Waddesdon Bequest displays the collection of Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces left to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild MP at his death in 1898.
The British Museum was founded in 1753 as a place of recreation 'for all studious and curious persons'.
Opened to the public in 1759, like now, the Museum was free but to prevent overcrowding, early visitors had to apply in person to the Porter for a ticket, return another day to collect it, and then return at the appointed time for the visit itself.
The founding collection belonged to the physician Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753). His collection included books, manuscripts and natural history specimens, as well as objects made by hand.
Originally a museum of natural history, books and manuscripts, art and archaeology, through the years the Museum has evolved into a collection of art and artefacts from the world's cultures.
The Collecting the world display opened in Autumn 2014. It features a few of the many individual collectors whose passion has shaped the collections of the Museum since its foundation. The gallery also features the individuals, support groups, organisations and international collaboration projects which continue to shape the Museum's future.
The Collecting the world gallery was previously the Museum's manuscript gallery prior to the departure of the British Library to its new building in St Pancras. Some of the famous manuscripts on display during that time include the Magna Carta and the Lindisfarne Gospels.