The Museum houses a vast collection of world art and artefacts
and is free to all visitors. The British museum is the most
famous museum in London with millions of people coming
The British Museum was established in 1753, largely based on
the collections of the physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane.
The museum first opened to the public on 15 January 1759 in
Montagu House in Bloomsbury, on the site of the current
museum building. Its expansion over the following two and a
half centuries was largely a result of an expanding British
colonial footprint and has resulted in the creation of several
branch institutions, the first being the British Museum (Natural
History) in South Kensington in 1887. Some objects in the
collection, most notably the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon,
are the objects of controversy and of calls for restitution to
their countries of origin.
Until 1997, when the British Library (previously centered on the
Round Reading Room) moved to a new site, the British Museum
housed both a national museum of antiquities and a national
library in the same building. The museum is a non-
departmental public body sponsored by the Department for
Culture, Media and Sport, and as with all other national
museums in the United Kingdom it charges no admission fee,
except for loan exhibitions Since 2002 the director of the
museum has been Neil Macgregor.
The Lewis Chessmen-
The Lewis Chessmen named after the bay where they were
found) are a group of 78 12th-century chess pieces, most of
which are carved in walrus ivory. Discovered in 1831 on the Isle
of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, they may constitute
some of the few complete, surviving medieval chess sets,
although it is not clear if a set as originally made can be
assembled from the pieces. They are owned and exhibited by
the British Museum in London, which has 67 of the original
pieces, and the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, which has
the remaining 11 pieces.
The chessmen were probably made in Norway, perhaps by
craftsmen in Trondheim, in the 12th century, although some
scholars have suggested other sources in the Nordic countries.
During that period, the Outer Hebrides, along with other major
groups of Scottish islands, were ruled by Norway.
According to Dr. Alex Woolf, director of the Institute for
Medieval Studies of the University of St. Andrews, there are a
number of reasons for believing the chess pieces probably came
from Trondheim: a broken queen piece in a similar style found
in an excavation of the archbishop's palace (it appeared the
piece was broken as it was being made), the presence of
wealthy people in Trondheim able to pay craftsmen for the
high-quality pieces, similar carving in Nidaros Cathedral in
Trondheim, the excavation in Trondheim of a kite-shaped shield
similar to shields on some of the pieces and a king piece of
similar design found on Hitra Island, near the mouth of
Trondheim Fjord. Woolf has said that the armour worn by the
chess figures includes "perfect" reproductions of armour worn
at the time in Norway.
Some historians believe that the Lewis chessmen were hidden
(or lost) after some mishap occurred during their carriage from
Norway to wealthy Norse towns on the east coast of Ireland,
such as Dublin. The large number of pieces and their lack of
wear may suggest that they were the stock of a trader or dealer
in such pieces. Along with the chess pieces, there were 14 plain
round tablemen for the game of tables and one belt buckle, all
made of ivory, making a total of 93 artifacts.
Another suggestion, put forward by Icelanders Gudmundur G.
Thorarinsson and Einar S. Einarsson, is that the chessmen
originated in Iceland.The pair claim that the most important
indicator of Icelandic origins is the presence of bishops among
the Lewis Chessmen, such pieces first being used in Iceland.
However, this is disputed by Woolf, who stated that the use of
bishops originated in England. The Icelandic hypothesis has
been thoroughly criticized by chess historian and member of
the Ken Whyld Association Morten Lilleøren, who has written
two articles on the subject, "The Lewis Chessmen Were Never
Anywhere Near Iceland!" and "The Lewis Chessmen on a