The History of The Great British Museum

The British Museum is one of the greatest museums of the world. It was founded by Act of Parliament in 1753 and is now governed under the British Museum Act 1963. General management and control are vested in a Board of twenty-five Trustees (one appointed by the Sovereign, fifteen by the Prime Minister, four nominated by Learned societies and five elected by the Trustees themselves. The Museum is largely funded by a government grant-in-aid administered by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Additional income is also secured through sponsorship and a wide range of commercial and fund-raising activities. The British Museum Company is responsible for the sale of publications and fund-raising activities. The British Museum Company is responsible for the sale of publications and replicas and also operates a tour company, British Museum Traveller. There are a number of active supporters' groups including the British Museum Friends, and its Young Friends, Patrons Associates, the Townley Group, Caryatids, Friends of the Ancient Near East and Japanese Friends. The Museum now holds national collections of antiquities; coins, medals and paper money; ethnography; and prints and drawings. Its natural history collections were transferred to South Kensington in the 1880s, becoming the Natural History Museum. The library collections (Printed Books, Manuscripts, Maps, Music and Stamps) became part of the British Library in 1973 and have now gone to a new building at St Pancras. The main Museum buildings are in Bloomsbury. The core consists of buildings of a floor area of about 600,000 square feet, designed by Sir Robert and Sidney Smirke and erected between the 1820s and 1850s. Major subsequent additions totalling about 340,000 square feet consists of the Classical and Assyrian Sculpture Galleries (1850s-1870s), the White Wing (1884), the King Edward VII Building (1914), the Duveen Gallery (1939/62) and the New Wing (1979/80). With the departure of the British Library the Museum has embarked upon a programme of development leading up to its 250th birthday in 2003. The glass-covered Great Court, opened 7 December 2001 is the centrepiece of the project.

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