Under Its New Director, the British Museum Reveals Plans for a Major Cross-Cultural Overhaul

The 10-year plan will reintroduce the museum's iconic Round Reading Room.

The British Museum in London yesterday revealed a plan to redisplay its entire collection, as well as to revitalize the currently defunct Round Reading Room, in a bid to “take the museum to the next level,” according to director Hartwig Fischer.

Fischer, who joined the British Museum just last year, used the disclosure of the museum’s annual review as an opportunity to provide insight into his 10-year plan for the institution. “Our vision will be to create a museum which tells more coherent and compelling stories of the cultures and artifacts we display to allow more comparisons to be made across cultures and timeframes,” he said in a statement.

“In a fast-changing and sometimes frightening world, the British Museum has to continue to play its part in explaining the connectivity of cultures and our shared humanity,” Fischer added. “Never has this been more necessary.”

Aside from rearranging the permanent collection—a major task the museum intends to carry out while remaining open to the public—details on the agenda include three major new or refurbished permanent galleries focusing on China and South Asia, Islam, and Japan, as well as a reintegration of the Round Reading Room into exhibition programming.

The Reading Room has become somewhat of a head-scratcher in recent years, as the museum has struggled to find a purpose for it after the removal of its books in 1997. The current proposal simply states that the space will hold objects from the permanent collection as a general introduction to the museum.

Though exact plans for the iconic room have yet to be ironed out, Fischer confirmed its role in the overhaul: “The Round Reading Room is at the center of our planning… I can promise it will look absolutely stunning.”

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