Great Russell Street
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Founded in 1753, the British Museum’s remarkable collection spans over two million years of human history. Enjoy a unique comparison of the treasures of world cultures under one roof, centred around the magnificent Great Court.
World-famous objects such as the Rosetta Stone, Parthenon sculptures, and Egyptian mummies are visited by up to six million visitors per year. In addition to the vast permanent collection, the museum’s special exhibitions, displays and events are all designed to advance understanding of the collection and cultures they represent.
Selected galleries are open until 20.30 on Thursdays and Fridays.
The Museum is closed on 1 January and 24, 25, 26 December.
Admission is free to all visitors. Charges may apply for special exhibitions and events.
Archaeology, Archives, Coins and Medals, Costume and Textiles, Decorative and Applied Art, Fine Art, Medicine, Music, Science and Technology, Social History, Weapons and War, World Cultures
Contemporary Japanese Prints: Noda Tetsuya’s ‘Diary’ Series
- 5 April — 5 October 2014 *on now
Since the late 1960s, artist Noda Tetsuya (born 1940) has created an on-going series of prints under the title, ‘Diary’. Intimate portraits of his family, landscapes experienced on his travels and objects from everyday life are recorded with sensitivity, wit and a certain mystery. Spanning almost fifty years and now reaching some five hundred works, the Diary series shows from within one individual’s world, with evocative perspectives onto a wider society.
This special display presents twenty-two of Noda’s Diary prints, works that span his life and career. The unusual technique of the prints combines colour woodblock with photo silkscreen. Noda cuts woodblocks to print areas of colour and subtle shades of white background onto handmade Japanese paper. Photographic images which have been deliberately altered by the artist to express his personal sensibility are then printed over the colours using silkscreen. This adds the darker outlines and areas of shading. Noda describes the camera as his sketchbook, using it to fix the compositions that are most significant to him. Noda’s everyday subjects and colour and outline style sometimes recall traditional Japanese ukiyo-e prints, with their observation of everyday-life, frankness and absence of ostentation.
Recent Noda acquisitions have been generously donated by the artist and also funded by the JTI Japanese Acquisition Fund.
The other side of the medal: how Germany saw the First World War
- 9 May — 23 November 2014 *on now
This display examines a selection of medals made by artists who lived and worked in Germany between 1914 and 1919. Challenging and at times deliberately provocative, many of the medals were intended to influence popular opinion against Germany’s enemies. Others provide a more universal criticism about the futility of war and waste of human life.
Initial enthusiasm for the First World War quickly descended into horror at its scale and brutality. Reflecting upon this, numerous artists revived the medieval Dance of Death motif to present an almost apocalyptic view of the conflict. On these medals, Death stalks the battlefield, sea and sky, hacking down soldiers, sinking ships or manipulating giant Zeppelin airships. The figure becomes an active malevolent presence and indiscriminate force of destruction.
Medal artists also embraced Expressionism to explore the psychological effects of war, distorting reality to convey mood and emotion. Vulnerable stick-like figures become dominated by giant war machines in scenes that strip humanity of its individualism. German medallists were also keen to consider the collateral effects of war, depicting refugees displaced by invasion or people starving as a result of food shortages. This showed the totality of the First World War in a way that eluded most contemporary medals made in Allied countries.
Due to their use of pro-German propaganda, wartime Britain regarded these medals with outrage. Despite this, the British Museum was highly proactive in acquiring them, realising their significance as historical documents. A century on, this display of medals from the collection offers a fresh perspective to our understanding of life and death during the First World War.
- Any age
Ancient lives, new discoveries
- 22 May — 30 November 2014 *on now
This exhibition will introduce you to eight people from ancient Egypt and Sudan whose bodies have been preserved, either naturally or by deliberate embalming. Using the latest technology, the exhibition will unlock hidden secrets to build up a picture of their lives in the Nile Valley over a remarkable 4,000 years – from prehistoric Egypt to Christian Sudan.
- Any age
- Family friendly
£10 (free for under-16s)
Sutton Hoo and Europe, AD 300–1100
- 1 June 2014 — 1 June 2016 *on now
The centuries AD 300–1100 witnessed great change in Europe. The Roman Empire broke down in the west, but continued as the Byzantine Empire in the east. People, objects and ideas travelled across the continent, while Christianity and Islam emerged as major religions.
By 1100, the precursors of several modern states had developed. Europe as we know it today was taking shape. Room 41 gives an overview of the period and its peoples. Its unparalleled collections range from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea, and from North Africa to Scandinavia.
The gallery’s centrepiece is the Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk – one of the most spectacular and important discoveries in British archaeology.
- Family friendly
Ming: 50 years that changed China
- 18 September 2014 — 5 January 2015
This major exhibition will explore a golden age in China’s history.
Between AD 1400 and 1450, China was a global superpower run by one family – the Ming dynasty – who established Beijing as the capital and built the Forbidden City. During this period, Ming China was thoroughly connected with the outside world. Chinese artists absorbed many fascinating influences, and created some of the most beautiful objects and paintings ever made.
The exhibition will feature a range of these spectacular objects – including exquisite porcelain, gold, jewellery, furniture, paintings, sculptures and textiles – from museums across China and the rest of the world. Many of them have only been very recently discovered and have never been seen outside China.
- Any age
Adults £16.50, Members free
British Museum Webquests
Webquests are online activities for children, using the collections of nine national museums and galleries.