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Why is it called the British Museum?

Updated September 28, 2021 | Infoplease Staff

The Question:

Dumb question, but I haven't seen any direct answer about this. Why is it called the British Museum when it's not mostly about British things? I've heard plenty of people joke about this.

The Answer:

The British Museum was founded by a personal collector of artifacts and curios who sold his collection to the King and the state upon his death. It's called "the British Museum" because it was the first museum owned and operated by the state on behalf of the public, rather than owned by an individual or business. So the "British" comes from who owns the museum, the people of Great Britain, rather than what it's dedicated to. Kind of like the Frick Collection, founded by Henry Frick.

-The Editors