A “collector of collections”—a new biography of the gentleman who laid the groundwork for the Britis

The British Museum in London is generally considered to be the first national public museum in the world. When Parliament enacted The British Museum Act of 1753, it incorporated the collections of Hans Sloane and combined them with collections from two private libraries—the Cottonian Library and the library of the Earls of Oxford. The new British Museum thus ushered in a period across the western world of the creation of national public museums dedicated to collecting, displaying, and making available for research, all types of specimens of natural and cultural origin.

The British Museum since expanded to become one of the largest and most popular museums in the world, but not entirely without controversy. In 1801, Lord Elgin obtained a permit to remove certain items from the grounds of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. His subsequent removal of far more than the permit was intended to allow—and the tactics used to obtain them, such as prying off sculptures and portions of the frieze that had been intact—led to great controversy. Upon his return to England with his spoils, in 1816 he sold the collection to the British Parliament, who subsequently placed them in the care of the British Museum

At any rate, today the British Museum remains one of the top 5 museums in the world in terms of visitorship. In 2016, nearly 6.5 million people strolled through its extensive exhibits. A new biography looks at the man whose relatively humble gift became the foundation of this world-class museum.


The Man Whose Cabinet of Curios Helped Start the British Museum

By Bruce Boucher

The New York Times

September 8, 2017

Also see

Visiting the World’s First Public Museum

By International Heritage News

March 13, 2017

Elgin Marbles—New attempts to secure their return to Greece

By International Heritage News

June 23, 2016

Tips for getting the most out of museum visits

By International Heritage News

February 19, 2017

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