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British Museum Reopens After 163 Days of Closure

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Over 20,000 free tickets have already been booked, with the first 5 days sold out.

British Museum Reopens After 163 Days of Closure

The British Museum reopened today with help from Mary Beard and Bonnie Greer. Beard, who is a trustee of the Museum, joined the front of house team for the morning to welcome back the first visitors. Alongside colleagues in the Bonnie Greer kicked off the opening by participating in a Facebook Live around the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery with Director Hartwig Fischer.

Professor Mary Beard said, "It was a pleasure to help welcome back the first visitors to the British Museum today. There was a real sense of excitement in the air and you could tell people had booked the opening day to part of this special moment. I had a wonderful time talking to the first guests about the displays (old favourites and new friends). . .and much more."

The majority of the ground floor galleries are open, 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.

Also on show from today is a previously unseen edition of The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman by Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry. The Tomb is an elaborate, richly decorated cast-iron coffin-ship and was originally conceived as the centrepiece of Perry's 2011 exhibition of the same name at the Museum. It has been brought back to its "spiritual home" after 9 years to celebrate the reopening. Perry, who is a trustee of the Museum, created 4 versions of the Tomb in 2011 (3 editions plus an artist's proof) one of which was shown in his exhibition. But this version remained unfinished until now, with Perry completing the work just days before its unveiling. This edition has never been displayed before.

The Museum has been closed for 163 days, the longest peacetime closure in its 261-year history. 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 we need to be careful as the objects reacclimatise during this first phase of reopening.

Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum said "I am delighted that we are able to welcome visitors once again. People are like oxygen to the British Museum and the whole point of a museum is to share our collections, so we have really missed having visitors.

There is no better time to come and experience our collection, either for the first time or to rediscover it all over again. With numbers capped for safety, it will feel very different but it will offer the chance to see things in new ways. Today is the first day in the next chapter of the British Museum's story."

The Museum is taking a phased approach to reopening to be sure we can accommodate visitors safely and securely. We are keeping safety measures under review and will adjust them as we learn how they work in practice and as Government guidance evolves. We plan to reopen some of the upper floor galleries later in the Autumn.

New dates have been confirmed for the Museum$B!G(Bs 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. We have also 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.

Tickets are available to book online or over the phone (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.



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