British Museum Archaeological Research Collection

A new storage and research facility in Shinfield

The British Museum has partnered with the University of Reading to develop the British Museum Archaeological Research Collection (BM_ARC), a new storage and research facility in Shinfield.

Subject to finalisation of the planning process, the new facility in Shinfield would house part of the British Museum’s research collection, including ancient sculptures, mosaics, archaeological assemblages and historic casts. The presence of the British Museum will enrich the cultural and academic life of Shinfield and the surrounding area, giving local schools, museums, heritage organisations and the public access to the collection by appointment. With a focus on global research, the facility and associated study rooms will give university students and academics access to the unique objects housed there.

The planned facility would be developed in two phases, with the first phase expected to start in 2019.

About the BM_ARC

The British Museum has partnered with the University of Reading to develop the British Museum Archaeological Research Collection in Shinfield. We hope this location will become a new storage facility for part of our world-famous research collection. The new building will house ancient sculptures, mosaics, archaeological assemblages and historic cast collections. Many of the objects would be moved from Blythe House in London, which is due to close in 2023.

With the University of Reading just around the corner and good access to the wider transport network, Shinfield is a great location to store the research collection. The presence of the British Museum will enrich the cultural and academic life of the local area, giving the local community, schools, museums and heritage organisations access to objects from all across the world. In addition, the site will help further stimulate local enterprise and investment.

The British Museum Archaeological Research Collection is an opportunity to strengthen the ties between the British Museum and the University of Reading. The Museum and University already work together across a variety of research projects, however this joint initiative will be the first of its kind between a national museum and a UK university. The facility will provide the University access to its research centre and bespoke study facilities, meeting and seminar rooms, and world leading experts.

Sandstone Ganesha figure, Uttar Pradesh, India, 750 AD (left) and Roman mosaic, 4th century (right). The Greek inscription reads: Health, Life, Joy, Peace, Good Cheer, Hope.

British Museum and the community

Community engagement is at the heart of the British Museum. BM_ARC would share in this mission, working to make the British Museum’s collection accessible to as many people as possible. The facility would bring meaningful collaboration with local schools and museums to share its collections and expertise with the community.

Local consultation has shown there is considerable excitement about the BM_ARC and the benefits it can bring to the cultural environment of Shinfield and the surrounding area. The British Museum will be working with local schools, groups and organisations to maximise these benefits.

The BM_ARC will:

  • • Give members of the public, students and academics access by appointment to a unique research collection.
  • • Provide opportunity for organised visits for members of the public and community organisations.
  • • Work closely with local museums, heritage and community organisations to increase understanding of the collection.
  • • Give local school groups unique, behind the scenes, access to curriculum related collections, including form civilisations such as the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Maya.

About the proposals

The British Museum Archaeological Research Collection will be a single building, designed to be a storage facility that will house and provide access to thousands of archaeological objects. In order to be able to carry out this function the building will need to accommodate specialist facilities and spaces for the Museum, such as:

  • • Bespoke study facilities
  • • Loans logistics centre and storage facility for touring exhibitions
  • • Storage capacity for all large 3D objects and bulk archaeology collections
  • • Space available to support collections

The building will not be open to the general public and all access will be pre-booked. Regular users of the building will be:

  • • Staff based at the building
  • • Staff and contractors not based at the building.
  • • Visitors from University of Reading and the public, via appointment

The facility will be located adjacent to the allocated area for Thames Valley Science Park, shown on the aerial map below. The site is bordered by St John’s Copse to the SE; farmland to the south; Old House farm access road to the SW; Upperwood Bungalow to the NW and farmland to the North.

It will be constructed in two phases and be single storey – up to 11m in height to the ridge. The proposed building will be accommodated into the landscape of the site, using a mix of materials to help blend into the landscape.

Access to the new building will be from the Thames Valley Science Park (using a short section of Cutbush Lane east of the Science Park) and therefore will come directly along purpose built roads feeding from the Shinfield Eastern Relief Road. It is not expected that the facility will generate significant traffic; objects will move occasionally and users are expected to be relatively low in number. The number of visitors and their arrival will be completely at the control and discretion of the Museum.

The existing hedge boundaries of the site will be retained and additional planting and landscaping will be designed to supplement the substantial screening that already exists.