Making History: The [Pounds Sterling]135m Gallery Set to Transform British Museum

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Byline: Louise Jury Chief Arts Correspondent

A GIANT new conservation and exhibition centre at the British Museum is on time and on budget to open next year -- despite the worst efforts of the winter to derail the project.

Presenting a progress report today, museum director Neil MacGregor showed how the steel frame of the [pounds sterling]135 million Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery was made in just six months, after a full year of digging 19 metre-deep basements.

A total of 4,369 trucks were needed to take away earth -- and extra staff had to be hired for snow-clearing in the harsh winter. Work also had to stop when high winds made it too dangerous to use the two tower cranes. But Mr MacGregor said 80 per cent of funding had now been raised, and the museum was on schedule to present its first exhibition, on the Vikings, in the 70-metre-long gallery in March 2014.

State-of-the-art facilities for science, conservation and storage would be open by June next year. The gallery is being named in honour of a [pounds sterling]25 million gift from the Sainsbury family.

Mr MacGregor said: "It will enable us to continue to present exhibitions on the scale of First Emperor and Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum."

There will also be storage space for 200,000 objects currently housed in Hackney and Hammersmith.

The science and conservation labo-ratories will take on work currently carried out in basements at the museum. …