About us

Fast facts about the Museum:

Founded: 1753
Collection size: 8 million objects
Oldest object in the collection: 
Stone chopping tool (nearly 2 million years old)  

A photograph of the British Museum from 1852, by Roger Fenton.

The British Museum in 1852, photographed by Roger Fenton. Photography at the Museum: a developing story 

The British Museum holds in trust for the nation and the world a collection of art and antiquities from ancient and living cultures.

Housed in one of Britain's architectural landmarks, the collection is one of the finest in existence, spanning two million years of human history. Access to the collection is free.

The Museum was based on the practical principle that the collection should be put to public use and be freely accessible. It was also grounded in the Enlightenment idea that human cultures can, despite their differences, understand one another through mutual engagement. The Museum was to be a place where this kind of humane cross-cultural investigation could happen. It still is.

The Museum aims to reach a broader worldwide audience by extending engagement with this audience. This is engagement not only with the collections that the Museum has, but the cultures and territories that they represent, the stories that can be told through them, the diversity of truths that they can unlock and their meaning in the world today.

The Museum has continually sought to make its collections available to greater and more diverse audiences, first in London, subsequently the UK and worldwide. Over the past forty years, the increasing ease of international travel has meant not only that more visitors from abroad can come to London to use the collection, but that the collection can more easily travel to them, and be put to public use in new local contexts.

The website is not merely a source of information about the collection and the Museum, but a natural extension of its core purpose to be a laboratory of comparative cultural investigation.

Under the British Museum Act 1963, the Trustees of the British Museum of Great Russell Street London WC1B 3DG are the corporate body with the legal duty to hold the Museum's collection and make it available to our world audience. They are also a charity pursuant to section 3A Charities Act 1993.

The British Museum Act 1963

The British Museum Company Limited was founded in 1973 by the Trustees of the British Museum to advance the educational aims of the Museum. The Company currently engages in a number of activities including wholesale and retail, licensing, publishing and the production of replicas and other merchandise.