The British Museum to reopen in time for Great Court's 20th anniversary

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The British Museum to reopen in time for Great Court's 20th anniversary
The Queen Elizabeth II Great Court turns 20 on Sunday 6 December.

LONDON.- The British Museum’s Great Court – one of the most recognizable museum interiors in the world – turns 20 on Sunday 6 December 2020. Due to the lifting of England’s national coronavirus restrictions and London entering Tier 2, the Museum will reopen ahead of the anniversary, welcoming the public again from this Thursday (3 Dec).

To celebrate the Great Court’s milestone, today the British Museum reveals that since it opened, 113 million people have now walked under the famous glass roof.

The British Museum will welcome visitors again from this Thursday. Tickets are now available to book for acclaimed exhibitions Tantra: enlightenment to revolution and the Citi exhibition Arctic: culture and climate, along with free tickets to the permanent collection, where visitors can still see Grayson Perry’s installation The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman and Edmund de Waal’s library of exile.

Designed by Foster + Partners, the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court was opened by HM The Queen on 6 December 2000. At the opening ceremony, she hailed it as “a landmark of the new Millennium.”

Hartwig Fisher, Director of the British Museum, said: “I am delighted that the British Museum can reopen its doors in time for the 20th anniversary of the Great Court. This spectacular glass-roofed courtyard has welcomed 113 million people since the turn of the Millennium, and it is the glorious starting point for nearly every visitor. It is only fitting that this space, which transformed the visitor experience of this great institution, should be welcoming people once again on its 20th birthday.”

The Great Court is a two-acre space enclosed by a spectacular glass roof with the world-famous Reading Room in the centre. It is the most photographed space in the Museum on social media. Before it’s construction, the central space of the Museum was home to the British Library, including in the central Round Reading Room which was completed in 1857 and designed Sydney Smirke. The Library’s departure in 1997 was the catalyst for recapturing the courtyard as a new public space at the heart of the Museum. The £100m development was the final major Millennium Commission project to open in 2000. It was supported by grants of £30 million from the Millennium Commission and £15.75 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Marking the 20th anniversary, Norman Foster, Founder and Executive Chairman, Foster + Partners, said: “The rediscovery of the amazing courtyard of the British Museum - the Great Court - and its rebirth as a new social focus followed what I have often called the historic tradition of change, which respects the past while steadfastly reflecting the spirit of its own time. The simple act of opening it up as the spatial heart of the museum was a catalyst in the Museum’s reinvigoration. The celebration of its 20th anniversary this year is a reflection of its success and we join in congratulating the British Museum for its foresight and vision.”

Spencer de Grey, Head of Design, Foster + Partners, said, “The opening of the Great Court symbolised the positivity and excitement about the future that characterised the new Millennium. As a public space, it gave the Museum a new, much needed vibrant heart, opening up a new public route through the building. Every time I visit the Museum, I’m heartened to see the many diverse groups enjoying its naturally lit environs and its magnificent neo-classical architecture, just as so many others have over the past twenty years.”

When opening the Great Court at a ceremony in 2000, HM The Queen said: "In the life of the nation, the British Museum is a remarkable phenomenon. It is an institution which has had a worldwide reputation for nearly 250 years and it is an enduring source of learning, inspiration and pleasure for millions of people who visit every year from this country and from overseas.

She added: "The Great Court will benefit the millions of people who come to the British Museum every year. We can be confident that it will become a landmark associated with the new millennium.”

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