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The British Museum
The British Museum

The British Museum, London

First opened to the public in 1759, the British Museum houses one of the world's most extensive collections on the history of human culture. Every part of the world is covered in this immense building, designed in classical Greek style, and which is free to enter (with the exception of some special exhibitions). With more than eight million items in its permanent collection, it covers everything from the Lower PalaeolithicThe earliest part of the Stone Age (3.4million years BP to 300000BP). See 'A Brief History of Climate Change'. (such as a 1.8 million year old African stone chopping tool) to the current day (such as a copper plated sculpture of a car bonnet). Furthermore, it has some of the world's most important historical objects on display, including the Rosetta Stone (which allowed us to translate Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs), the disputed Elgin Marbles (removed from the Parthenon in Athens), and the most important collection of Mesopotamian antiquities outside Iraq.

The British Museum's collections are so large and so important, it would take weeks to appreciate them fully. Each item is breathtaking in its own right, being amongst the best examples on display anywhere in the country, and deserves to be admired. As such, it is better to go with a particular period or place in mind, and find the relevant rooms.More infoWith young children in tow, we, obviously, had to head for the mummies. It also helps to know something already about the subject of the rooms you are visiting. This is not to say that information isn't available: it is, and in quantity. But the sheer amount of information can be overwhelming, particularly for a family with young children. I found it much easier to pull the children close and tell them the story of the items and their backgrounds, rather than read through all the information present. This way, I could also avoid some of the crush around the information panels and displays in particular rooms.

And this is the main problem with the Museum. The press of humanity in some rooms is considerable. Being packed into the mummies room felt something akin to taking the Tube at rush hour, and it was often not possible to get close to displays (at least without liberal use of elbows). It could also be quite daunting with two children there, both in terms of them getting bumped and bruised by people looking at eye-level, and also in them being lost in the general crush. It would be wise, if visiting with children, to have a clear plan in case they get lost. There is, however, probably a system that can be used to avoid the largest crowds: if you arrive early and see the most popular rooms first, you might be able to beat some of the rush. The British Museum is also open late on Friday evenings when it might be quieter. But with the Museum so big, and with so much to see, you are bound to run into crowds somewhere.

There is also the niggle, when visiting the British Museum, that perhaps some of the items should be given back to their original owners. The Rosetta Stone, for example, has been claimed by Egypt and there is an ongoing saga around the Elgin Marbles, which UNESCOUnited Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation., amongst others, believes should be returned to their rightful home. I tried hard not to let the ethical considerations prevent my enjoyment of them, and their being housed in the British Museum has allowed me much more opportunity to view them, but perhaps it would be better to see them where they belong.

However, these few problems don't take (much) away from the Museum. Any student of any period of history should visit this amazing place, and should spend as much time as possible doing so.

To find out more about the British Museum, click here.

Author Info

Debbie Kilroy

Having read history at the University of Birmingham as an undergraduate, where I won the Kenrick Prize, I worked as a trouble-shooter in the public sector until I took a career break in 2009. Thereafter, I was able to pursue my love of history and turn it into a career, founding Get History in 2014 with the aim of bringing accessible yet high quality history-telling and debate to a wide audience. Since then, I have completed a Masters in Historical Studies at the University of Oxford, from which I received a distinction and the Kellogg College Community Engagement and Impact Award. As well as continuing to write for and expand Get History, I am now a freelance writer and historian. I have worked with Histories of the Unexpected and Inside History, and my article for Parliaments, Estates and Representation won the ICHRPI Emile Lousse essay prize (2019).

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The British Museum, London
The British Museum, London
out of 10



Information and collections


Child friendly/fun factor




Value for money



  • +Can see some of the world's most important items
  • +The size and range of the collections
  • +Good information
  • +Logically arranged spaces
  • +Exceptional value for money - free entry


  • -Impossible to see in just one day
  • -Information overload
  • -The crowds
  • -Ethical issues over the provenance of some items
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