LIS British Studies – British Museum

The British Museum’s central archives was a neat visit. It was interesting to see the behind the scenes of how an archive of a museum is run. The British Museum’s archives hold many records and help to establish the museum’s holding. The archivist shared a story of how someone tried to claim an item on display in the museum actually belonged to their family. The archivist found records that stated the item was already in the museum’s holdings before the person claiming it thought it would have been in their family.

This archive is the oldest administrative archive. The earliest records kept here are from trustee meetings from 1754. These were bound up until 1914. There are more papers belonging to the board of trustees than actual correspondence. There are some letter books which give the museum’s view on correspondence.

This archive is still archiving things of importance in today’s world. Finances in this archive go back to 1754, Excavation records are kept here from 1877 through 1900s.

The British Museum was set up in 1747 by an act of Parliament. Books that were sold as tour guides are held in this archive and show how the museum was throughout the years it has been open.

The museum took a direct bomb hit during World War II. The museum kept its treasures safe by hiding the items. The museum itself was proposed to be used as a shelter but those who visited were wary of letting commoners come in from the street to use the museum as a bomb shelter.

This archive holds records of reading room applicants, such as Bram Stoker.

The catalog is not completely online. The archivist has the goal to put the entire catalog together and let it be electronically accessible but there are many items that need to be cataloged.



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