The world’s oldest museum has no fewer than 6 million items spanning 1.8 million years of world civilization. The collection was started with the bequest of a physician and antiquarian, Sir Hans Sloane, in 1753. In the 18th and 19th century’s travelers and emissaries, such as Captain James Cook, Lord Elgin, Lord Curzon and Charles Townley, added treasures from around the world. The present, Classical style building was completed around 1850. In 2000 the central courtyard was opened as a new public space, the Great Court. The top ten exhibits in British Museum are Parthenon Sculptures, Mummified Cat, Ram in a Thicket, Mildenhall Treasure, Rosetta Stone, Portland Vase, Rameses II, Mixtec-Aztec Mosaic Mask, Kwakwaka’wakw, Amitabha Buddha.
There are three cafés and one restaurant in the museum. Picnics can be eaten in the forecourt by the main entrance. Highlights’ tours give an introduction to the collection. The British Museum shop sells reproduction artifacts. Visitor guides with full maps are on sale at the information desk in the Great Court and shops. Otherwise start to the left of the main entrance with the Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman galleries. The North Wing ethnography and Asian galleries provide a change from Classical material, as do the early British, medieval and Renaissance collections on the east side.
The museum opens at 10am–5:30pm daily (selected galleries 10am–8:30pm Thursday & Friday). Great Court: open 9am–6pm Monday, 9am–9pm Tuesday, Wednesday & Sunday, 9am–11pm Thursday–Saturday. And guided tours at 10:30am, 1pm & 3pm daily.