The British Museum is one of the greatest museums of the world, ranking with the Louvre in Paris and the Smithsonian in Washington, DC as the depositary of a national collection of antiquities; coins, medals and paper money; ethnography and prints and drawings.
Upwards of a century ago, in the year 1753, the books, manuscripts, drawings, prints and collections of natural and artificial curiosities conditionally bequeathed by Sir Hans Sloane, physician, naturalist and antiquary were secured by Act of Parliament for the use and edification of the public to all posterity at a cost of £20,000.
The addition of the Cotton and Harley manuscripts introduced a literary and antiquarian element and it formed the basis of the British Museum.
After all the arrangements had been completed, the British Museum was first opened to the public on January 15, 1759. The core of the new museums holdings was the antiquarian collections of Sir Hans Sloane; the Harleian collection of manuscripts and the library of Sir Robert Cotton.
King George II (r. 1727-1760) added to this in 1757 when he donated the 9000 volume Royal Library, founded by Edward IV (r, 1461-1470, 1471-1483) in 1471.
Since the first opening to the public in 1759, the British Museum has been located in Bloomsbury and its image is synonymous with the intellectual and cultural capital of the neighborhood.
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