The British Museum holds in trust for the nation and the world a collection of art and antiquities from ancient and living cultures.
The British Museum was founded in 1753, the first national public museum in the world. From the beginning it granted free admission to all ‘studious and curious persons’. 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.
Housed in one of Britain’s architectural landmarks, the collection is one of the finest in existence, spanning two million years of human history. Visitor numbers have grown from around 5,000 a year in the eighteenth century to nearly 6 million today.