What’s Next for the British Museum’s Acclaimed Reading Room?

ritish Museum Reading Room, Bloomsbury, London, England © BL/Robana/Age Fotostock)(Bing United Kingdom
ritish Museum Reading Room, Bloomsbury, London, England © BL/Robana/Age Fotostock)(Bing United Kingdom

Since its completion in 1857, the reading room at the center of the British Museum’s Great Court has been celebrated as one of Britain’s most beautiful structures. And it’s one that has kept up to date too. Following its restoration in 2000, the dome has housed a modern IT centre alongside its 25,000 books and catalogues focusing on the cultures represented within the institution.

The Reading Room is currently undergoing a new phase of restoration work, which has provided the museum with the opportunity to consider alternative uses for the famous space, the Independent reports. British Museum Director Neil MacGregor said “We will consult widely about its future use.” A possible solution would be to turn it into a gallery showcasing some of the treasures held by the institution. The move would be part of MacGregor’ grand project to give wider public access to the museum’s permanent collection, which he calls “our real blockbuster exhibition.”

The director also announced a major exhibition examining the Greek body. “The museum houses the most important collection of sculpture in the world and we want to improve the display and to allow a greater dialogue between the sculptures of different cultures,” he told the Independent.

Planned for next spring, the show will include objects from the museum’s vast collection of Greek and Roman sculptures, including the Elgin Marbles, a group of priceless Parthenon sculptures taken from Greece by Lord Elgin in the 19th century.

The marbles have been at the center of a fierce, long-running repatriation dispute between the two nations ever since. MacGregor insisted the move was not part of a “use them or lose them” approach, despite the fact that the pieces have not been separated since their installation in the gallery where they are currently housed in 1962.

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