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 British 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.
So here's what's on right now, and what you've got to look forward to.
Open until 11 February 2024
Visitors to this show can embark on a riveting journey through Myanmar's — also known as Burnma's — tumultuous history. It's hosted to commemorate the nation's 75th independence anniversary from British rule.
The exhibition explores Myanmar's paradoxical landscape: rich in jade, rubies, and teak, yet marked by pervasive poverty. There's around 1,500 years of history on show.
It unfolds across four sections and through over 110 unique objects which are drawn from the British Museum’s world-class collection as well as spectacular loans from across the UK, Germany and Singapore. Most are on display to the public for the very first time.
Starting in AD 450, the display goes on to examine the 14th century kingdoms who jostled for power and expanded important links with Thailand, China, Sri Lanka, through to how rulers in central Myanmar came to dominate parts of the region between the 16th and 19th centuries. It ends by examining how modern-day artists have defied state censors of the 20th and 21st century to marry activism with artistic traditions in expressions of resistance and hope.
Opens 1 February 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.
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.
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.
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