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Main entrance to the British Museum, London | by fmpgoh
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Main entrance to the British Museum, London

The British Museum is the oldest public museum in the world. It was established in1753 to house the collection of the physician and antiquarian, Sir Hans Sloane (1660 - 1753). In the 18th and 19th centuries travellers and emissaries, such as Captain James Cook, Lord Elgin, Lord Curzon and Charles Townley, added treasures from around the world. The present, Classical style building was completed around 1850.


The Museum was founded 250 years ago as an encyclopædia of nature and of art. Today it no longer houses collections of natural history, and the books and manuscripts it once held now form part of the independent British Library. The Museum nevertheless preserves its universality in its collections of artefacts representing the cultures of the world, ancient and modern. The original 1753 collection has grown to over thirteen million objects at the British Museum, 70 million at the Natural History Museum and 150 million at the British Library.

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Taken on June 19, 2009