The distinctive roof of the British Museum and the surrounding area
© Vladimir Zakharov/Getty Image
A London landmark turns 260. A personal collection becomes an institution
That blue expanse on the left of today's homepage image is the roof of the British Museum's Great Court and Reading Room in London. The oculus at the top of the dome is made of glass, and the ceilings within are papier-mâché. The Great Court opened in 2000, a new addition to a storied institution. Irish physician Sir Hans Sloane sold his personal collection of antiquities and books to Great Britain in the mid-18th century. Sloane’s items included many books, rare manuscripts, and artifacts from around the globe, and he wanted them preserved and exhibited in public. This led to the creation of the British Museum, the world’s first national public museum, which opened this day in 1759. The collection has grown and changed significantly since then, but one detail remains: Admission to this London attraction is still free.