Museum Street, WC1B

Place Name

Directional. This leads to the British Museum which opened in what had been Montagu House, on January 15, 1759, largely to house the collections of the physician and scientist Sir Hans Soane. According to the museum’s website: “It was the first national museum to cover all fields of human knowledge, open to visitors from across the world.” It was created following a 1753 Act of Parliament that stated it would be “the world’s first free, national, public museum that opened its doors to ‘all studious and curious persons'”. Though, that wasn’t actually the case as at first visitors had to apply for entry which essentially restricted it to the well-to-do, who were given personal tours. It wasn’t truly free until the 1830s when the regulations changed. Montagu House was built in 1679 and the museum was rebuilt and extended from 1823 onwards. This used to be part of a series of streets including Queen Street and Bow Street, dating from 18thCentury and Peter Street, dating from 17thCentury between Great Russell Street and today’s High Holborn, which are all now gone. It was redeveloped as a single street, in 1819, and renamed after the British Museum was built. The UCL Bloomsbury Project says: “It was designed to be respectable, after the previous developments on the site had become slums.”

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