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British Museum exhibitions in 2024 — here's what's on

Updated: May 4

It's one of the biggest museums in the world, with an 8-million strong collection and a 270-year history. So there's a reason why the British Museum is one of the top 5 most visited museums and galleries in the entire world.


The huge venue in Bloomsbury in central London displays objects from across the globe and from across millennia. Its exhibition programme reflects that eclectic variety — and the museum's exhibitions in 2024 are no different.


This year, their shows span two major periods in Rome's history — over 1,000 years apart — as well as the history of the Asia's Silk Road.


The glass roof made up of triangular panes extends from the top of neo-classical building
The Great Court roof at the British Museum

So here's what's on at the British Museum right now, and what you've got to look forward to.


Now open — until 23 June 2024


The army of Ancient Rome gets the blockbuster treatment in a show that will explore the reality of daily life for the men, women and children who were part of the massive fighting machine which allowed the Roman Empire to expand and rule vast territory thousands of years ago.


Visitors will discover over 200 objects including loans from 28 lenders from the UK and around the world. These are complemented by items from the British Museum’s own world-class collection. Many of the items in the show will be on display in Britain for the first time ever.


There'll be iconic Roman military objects alongside contemporary evidence of the real lives of citizens and non-citizens — free or enslaved — from forts and frontiers across the empire. A major highlight will be the world’s only intact legionary shield — on loan from Yale University — and the oldest and most complete classic Roman segmental body armour, unearthed from the battlefield in Germany just five years ago.



A gold-coloured metal helmet with cheek guards
Copper alloy Roman legionary helmet © The Trustees of the British Museum

Opens 2 May until 28 July 2024


This major show examines the last three decades of Michelangelo’s life, which were his busiest as an artist. His move to Rome from Florence in 1534 marked the beginning of a dramatic new chapter for him, which would fundamentally shape his experiences as an artist and as a man.


Highlights for visitors will be stunning preparatory drawings for the monumental Last Judgment fresco which covers the whole altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. The sketches on display from the British Museum’s collection show some of the early versions of many of the over 300 figures which are featured in the final incredible artwork in Vatican City.  


Also on show will be the Epifania — one of only two surviving Michelangelo cartoons — which has been recently restored by the museum in order to stabilise the very fragile work for the coming decades.


There’ll also be intimate letters, poems and drawings which together will offer powerful insights into Michelangelo’s faith, relationships and experiences of old age.


Together all the artworks on display will provide a fascinating insight into the prolific final decades of a man that would go on to be one of history's most famous artists.



Black and white chalk drawing of a man sitting with his back to the viewer, arms down by his side with his defined muscles clear to see
Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564), Study for The Last Judgement. Chalk on paper, 1540

Opens 26 September 2024 until 23 February 2025


The British Museum's final major exhibition of the year will look at the pivotal 500-year period where the Silk Road was at its height.


It'll show that there wasn't one singular road, but in fact a vibrant network of trade routes that stretched from East Asia through to the Roman Empire, and were where goods, ideas and even religion flowed across vast lands.

 

But the display will also go further according to the curators. It'll extend “beyond the idea of the silk road as a simple trade route between East and West” to showing how “journeys of people, objects and ideas shaped cultures and histories in the period AD 500 – 1000” the museum said in a press statement. The exhibition will also inspire reflections on global connections today they added.


More details on what will be on show are expected later this year.



Opens 17 October 2024 until 9 February 2025


The museum has tapped in-demand artist Hew Locke to co-curate this radical exhibition on the colonial history of their extensive collections.


The as-yet–untitled show will see some of the museum’s most well-known objects displayed alongside specially commissioned new works by Locke. Seen side-by-side, the dialogue between the exhibits will explore how the museum’s collection reflects the legacies of British imperial power.


Locke is a renowned Guyanese-British artist and he’s been working on this show over the past two years. He said his show would ask many questions of museums and the stories they tell, such as “what story has been chosen and is being told or implied about the past?”


Ultimately, according to Locke, he will be bringing visitors “beautiful objects with awkward histories.”



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