News - The British Museum

Front of the British Museum Building showing columns and steps
The British Museum will reopen to visitors on Thursday 27th August 2020...

Press Release


Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum said “I am delighted to announce that the British Museum will reopen its doors in time for the summer Bank Holiday weekend. Visitors are our lifeblood, and we have missed them greatly. It will be wonderful to welcome them back and I do hope that local, London-wide and UK audiences will take this opportunity to discover, or rediscover, the Museum, exploring some of the most popular galleries in what will be a much quieter environment. And we are looking forward to welcoming back our international visitors as well in due course.

"The British Museum’s extraordinary collection is a unique place to learn about the shared and complex history of humankind, with its many achievements and challenges, conflicts and innovations. It demonstrates humanity’s ability to endure and create even in precarious times. It will inspire us as we embark on this new chapter in the story of the Museum, and the world.”

The majority of the ground floor galleries will be available, allowing an intimate exploration of some of the Museum's most iconic highlights including the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon Sculptures, Hoa Hakananai'a, the Assyrian reliefs, the Benin Bronzes, the Aztec double-headed serpent, the Akan Drum and the Discobolus. The tour will allow visitors to take in over 9,000 objects.

Larger than lifesize statues of Egyptian gods

British Museum Trustee and Turner Prize-winning artist, Grayson Perry, has also agreed to lend his work, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, originally created for his British Museum exhibition of the same name in 2011 [read Susan's review of the original exhibition here - Ed]. The Tomb is an elaborate, richly decorated cast-iron coffin-ship – a vessel weighted with the freight of Perry’s imagination and an eloquent testament to the countless unnamed skilled individuals – men and women - who have made the beautiful wonders of history found in the British Museum today. 

New dates have been confirmed for the Museum’s postponed spring exhibitions Tantra: enlightenment to revolution and The Citi exhibition Arctic: culture and climate. Tantra will open from 24 September 2020 (closing 24 January 2021) and Arctic on 22 October 2020 (closing 21 February 2021). Both exhibitions will have extended runs to ensure more people can see them whilst following social distancing guidelines. 

Edmund de Waal sitting in his library of exile exhibit
They have also been able to extend the display of Edmund de Waal's library of exile in Room 2 giving visitors a chance to see this thoughtful and reflective work before the books it includes are donated to the world-renowned library of the University of Mosul in Iraq which is being rebuilt after it suffered extensive damage under Daesh.

The British Museum is taking a phased approach to reopening to be sure they can accommodate visitors safely and securely. Safety measures will be constantly under review and will be adjusted as Government guidance evolves. There are also plans to reopen some of the upper floor galleries from Monday 21st September.

The British Museum will have been closed for 163 days, the longest peacetime closure in its 261-year history, and staff have been working very hard behind the scenes to prepare for reopening. The collection – which numbers 8 million objects – is housed in a splendid, yet complex, building and it has taken time to bring historic infrastructure back into service. The collection itself is fragile and varied, with objects such as the Lewis Chess pieces or the Nimrud Ivories made of materials that are especially vulnerable to fluctuations in temperature or relative humidity. The presence of visitors plays an important part in keeping that humidity stable and care will be needed as the objects re-acclimatise during this first phase of reopening.

Richard Lambert, Chair of the Museum’s Trustees, said “It is wonderful news that the Museum will start to reopen in August. The pandemic has of course had a huge impact on us all. We, like many others in the heritage and arts sector, face an extremely challenging financial situation. The Trustees would like to thank the Government for the additional financial support that will help us and the sector to navigate this difficult period. And we just can’t wait to reopen our doors."

Tickets will be available to book online or over the phone from 10am on Wednesday 12th August (www.britishmuseum.org, or 020 7323 8181). The Museum will open 10am – 3pm on the 27th and 28th of August, moving to 10am – 5pm from Saturday 29th August.

Images - Trustees of the British Museum