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.
Museum galleries are open daily 10.00–17.30, and most are open until 20.30 on Fridays. Closing starts from 17.20 (20.20 on Fridays).
Closed: 24-26 December
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
Defacing the past: damnation and desecration in imperial Rome
- 13 October 2016 — 7 May 2017 *on now
Discover Roman history from a different perspective. This display presents coins and other objects that were defaced, either to condemn the memory of deceased Roman emperors or to undermine the power of living ones.
Like many rulers, Roman emperors used inscriptions, sculptures and coins to project their authority. But the imperial image could be outraged and subverted for political and religious reasons. The memory of Roman emperors and high-ranking officials could be officially condemned after their death through a process known as ‘damnatio memoriae’, meaning that a person’s memory was attacked and largely erased. This was particularly true if rulers were overthrown or executed. Their names were erased and their portraits defaced. Imperial images were also mutilated and destroyed by Rome’s enemies to contest the imperial authority.
The display features a selection of coins, inscriptions, sculptures and papyri that show images and symbols of power being subverted in antiquity. It also includes examples from Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece, showing that the Romans were continuing a long tradition of desecration of rulers.
From Sejanus in the rule of Tiberius to the decadent Caligula and Nero, and from the disastrous Domitian and Commodus to the soldier emperors of the later empire, follow Roman history from the view of the defacer.
- Family friendly
South Africa: 3 million years of art
- 27 October 2016 — 26 February 2017 *on now
From the earliest examples of human curiosity and creativity to cutting-edge contemporary works, discover the fascinating history of South Africa through art.
In this exhibition a diverse range of art from across the ages tells a story that stretches back to the Early Stone Age. From rock art made by the country’s earliest peoples to works by South African artists at the forefront of contemporary art, the exhibition features beautiful and important works, which illustrate South Africa’s rich history.
- Family friendly
Adults £12, under 16s free
The American Dream: pop to the present
- 9 March — 18 June 2017
The past six decades have been among the most dynamic and turbulent in US history, from JFK’s assassination, Apollo 11 and Vietnam to the AIDS crisis, racism and gender politics. Responding to the changing times, American artists produced prints unprecedented in their scale and ambition.
Starting with the explosion of pop art in the 1960s, the exhibition includes works by the most celebrated American artists. From Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg to Ed Ruscha, Kara Walker and Julie Mehretu – all boldly experimented with printmaking. Experience this extraordinary history through their eyes.
Taking inspiration from the world around them – billboard advertising, global politics, Hollywood and household objects – American artists created highly original prints to rival their paintings and sculptures. Printmaking brought their work to a much wider and more diverse audience.
The sheer inventiveness and technical ingenuity of their prints reflects America’s power and influence during this period. Many of these works also address the deep divisions in society that continue to resonate with us today – there are as many American dreams as there are Americans.
This exhibition presents the Museum’s outstanding collection of modern and contemporary American prints for the first time. These will be shown with important works from museums and private collections around the world.
- Family friendly
National Art Pass: £8.25
Under 16s and disabled persons' carers free
Babel, babbling and the British Museum
- 26 November 2041 1:15-2pm
A gallery talk by Irving Finkel, British Museum.
Gallery talks last 45 minutes.
They are given by Museum staff or guest speakers and are suitable for all levels of knowledge.
British Museum Webquests
Webquests are online activities for children, using the collections of nine national museums and galleries.
The Games at Olympia
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