Among the countless tourist attractions in contemporary London, such as the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, and Buckingham Palace, the one that can easily be considered the unforgettable “Queen” amongst them all, is the British Museum. Britain’s national museum of archaeology and antiquities was established by an act of Parliament in 1753 when the government purchased three large private collections consisting of books, manuscripts, prints, drawings, paintings, medals, coins, seals, cameos, and natural curiosities. Today, home of approximately seven million objects from all continents, the British museum is considered to be the most popular and famous museum in the world.
Located in the Bloomsbury district of London, the British museum’s collections in archaeology and ethnography are particularly outstanding. Being one of London’s principal tourist attractions, the visitor can admire its famous holdings, like the Elgin Marbles, carvings from the Athenian Parthenon, the Rosetta Stone, the Portland Vase, the Benin Bronzes sculptures, Egyptian Mummies, and the Chinese ceramics. Its drawings collection holds more than 2,000 drawings constituting the world’s largest and most comprehensive collections.
Since it first opened its doors to the public, on January 15, 1759, the museum has been illustrating and documenting the story of human development and culture from its early years to the present day. Because the British Museum does not charge any admission fees, the exception being some temporary special exhibitions, interested publics from around the globe line up outside its doors waiting to enter its amazing gallery showrooms and admire the plethora of human creations kept in there.
But some of its most prestigious holdings, like the Parthenon Marbles and the Benin Bronzes, are among its most disputed collections. These collections are the subject of great controversy and political debates since various organizations lobby in favor of their return to their native countries of Greece and Nigeria respectively. But regardless of the harsh criticism, the British Museum has refused to return either collection, arguing that if the British Museum was to return to their original geographical location any of its current possessions that would mean empty rooms for a great many museums around the world. Although critics argue that these artifacts, among others, should now return to their home countries, the British Museum continues to support that it is an appropriate custodian and has the inalienable right over these disputed creations under British law.
Nevertheless, the fact still remains that the British Museum is one of the most important London destinations one should not miss visiting when circumstances allow a ride to one of the most famous and interesting capitals in the world.