Magazine article History Today

The British Museum Opened: Jan 15 1759

Magazine article History Today

The British Museum Opened: Jan 15 1759

Article excerpt

The world's first institution of its kind was founded in 1753, based on the collections left to the nation by Sir Hans Sloane, a wealthy doctor who had made it clear that he expected them to be open to public view, A committee of eminent trustees was assembled to organise the museum in a 17th-century mansion called Montagu House, bought with money raised by a public lottery, and late in 1758 the trustees decided to open to the public, though as David Wilson makes clear in his history of the museum, they had reservations about who should be let in. There were grave doubts about servants and members of the lower classes, whose presence could offend visitors from higher up the social ladder. No drunks were welcome, and for the collections' safety it was provided that visitors must be shown round by the museum's officers and not allowed to walk through the rooms alone.

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On December 2nd the trustees resolved that the porter should have a gown 'of a plain drab colour with a yellow tuft' and a black staff with a silver tip. …

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