The British Museum has publicly announced their Annual Review 2014/15, and it celebrates the successes of a year that produced new and exciting programmes. In 2014 the Museum was the leading visitor attraction in the UK for an eighth year running with 6.7 million visitors and a virtual audience of 43.7 million.
The past year has seen great successes in the temporary exhibition programme with 114,000 visitors to Germany: memories of a nation and over 4 million downloads of the accompanying BBC radio series. Ancient lives, new discoveries has been seen by over 215,000 visitors since it opened in May 2014 while the prints and drawings exhibition Witches and wicked bodies, attracted over 190,000 visitors. Over 120,000 people came to the BP exhibition Ming: 50 Years that Changed China in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery that included stunning loans never before seen in the UK from 30 institutions in China and beyond.
A dazzling Waddesdon Bequest, in the form of a private collection within a public collection, was re-displayed to the public in a new gallery space, Room 2a, made possible by a generous donation by the Rothschild Foundation. The Waddesdon Bequest Gallery opened on 11 June 2015, accompanied by the new publication A Rothschild Renaissance: Treasures from the Waddesdon Bequest, that charts the history of the Rothschilds and how the collection of Medieval and Renaissance treasures came into being as a now unique surviving example of 19th century collecting.
Many Important new acquisitions include Picasso’s 347 Suite, made in 1968, a major addition to the collection. In an astonishing burst of creativity, Picasso in his late eighties explored in 347 etchings themes of creativity, virility and ageing, along with memories of his youth in Barcelona and his engagement with the great masters of the past, including Rembrandt and Goya. The gift of this later work broadens the BM’s already outstanding graphic collection of this great 20th-century artist. The purchase was supported in its entirety by Hamish Parker and presented by him in honour of the Department of Prints and Drawings.
This British institution celebrates 15 years of National Programmes activity working with partners in the UK. Over 2,800 objects, were loaned to 170 venues in the UK in 2014/15. Including 1,347 objects on long-term loan to 71 UK venues. This year 3 million people saw British Museum objects in UK museums outside London, compared to the 2 million UK visitors that travelled to the site in Bloomsbury.
Teaching History with 100 Objects was launched in September 2014, with support from the Department for Education, as an exciting new online national resource for teachers. The website features objects linked to the new English national curriculum in history and has had had 41,000 visits so far. The 100 artefacts are from collections around Britain, with 40 UK museums complementing the BM’s contributions. Teachers around the country are encouraged to arrange visits for their pupils. British history features, from the Sutton Hoo helmet to Guy Fawkes’s lantern, as does world history.
The one millionth UK find recorded through the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) was dug up in Devon in 2014. It was a Roman copper-alloy coin of AD 332, depicting symbols of Victory and Constantinople, as part of a hoard of 22,000 coins dating to around AD341. This tiny Roman nummus minted in Gaul is a measure of the enormous success of PAS, which has in its 18 years transformed what happens to archaeological finds in Britain: how they are recorded and preserved, and where they end up. Finders are increasingly waiving their rewards to allow museums around the country to acquire important historical artefacts that range from Bronze Age jewellery to Roman armour. More than 100 museums across the country have acquired objects classed as Treasure.
In December 2014 the British Museum lent a sculpture from the Parthenon of the river god Ilissos – loaned for the first time – to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg to mark its 250th anniversary. The sculpture was seen by 140,000 Russians in six weeks. Ilissos was then displayed alongside five other Parthenon sculptures and unique international loans in Defining beauty: the body in ancient Greek art in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery, sponsored by Julius Baer.
The British Museum lends more objects more widely than any other museum in the world. In 2014/15 the Museum loaned over 1,600 objects to 90 institutions outside the UK. Long-term loans are balanced with requests to draw on the BM’s study collections to support many of the world’s art exhibitions.
Overseas, a six-year twelve-venue international tour saw The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece attract 1.7 million visitors. In 2014, its final two venues were Fondation Gianadda in Martigny, Switzerland and Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria, Australia. Curious Beasts: Animal Prints from the British Museum toured Britain, before travelling to San Diego University Museum – the first of three BM prints and drawings exhibitions in the Californian city. BM exhibitions travel in many different ways. Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam (2012) evolved into well attended exhibitions in Doha and Leiden. In 2014, a version was seen at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris by 66,000 people. In 2015, the BM’s exhibition won the inaugural ISESCO-OCIS Prize for Educators. The exhibition has helped to shape thinking of how best to redisplay the British Museum’s permanent collection and a generous donation has been announced to build The Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World due to open in 2018.
Future exhibitions planned for the autumn include Drawing in silver and gold: from Leonardo to Jasper Johns opening on 10 September in Room 90, tickets now on sale. This will be the first time the development of metalpoint as a technique can be charted across Europe through six centuries from Leonardo to the present day.The show highlights the remarkable graphic holdings of works in metalpoint in the British Museum but also features major loans from European and American museums as well as private collections, including four of Leonardo’s greatest silverpoint studies from the Royal Collection.
Celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Asahi Shimbun’s sponsorship, Manga now: three generations (3 September – 15 November 2015, Room 3) will feature newly commissioned and recent works by a trio of celebrated Japanese manga artists: Chiba Tetsuya, Hoshino Yukinobu and Nakamura Hikaru. The free display will explore the diverse appeal of manga and show how it has evolved over recent generations through the work of three living artists. It will also give a rare opportunity to see the original artwork that forms the basis for mass-printed manga.
This autumn the Museum will also host Britain’s first major exhibition in 40 years on the Celts as well as a special exhibition on religions on the Nile since antiquity; Egypt: faith after the pharaohs.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the International Training Programme (ITP) for young museum curators. A total of 183 colleagues have taken part, representing 27 countries in the Middle East, Africa, South and East Asia, Europe and Latin America. For six weeks each summer the BM welcomes up to 26 participants from areas of the world integral to the Museum’s programme of international engagement, particularly from countries in need of additional support in building capacity within their museum sectors. The programme is hosted jointly by the British Museum and several partner museums across the UK. The British Museum fundraises to cover all of the participants’ costs to ensure that the opportunity to take part is not limited by the finances of participants and their employers. Thanks to the generosity of the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust the British Museum has been offered a challenge fund of up to £500,000 to match every donation in support of the ITP. If the Museum can match the challenge fund the ITP would be secure for the next 5 years.
Ancient lives, new discoveries, sponsored by Julius Baer, with technology partner Samsung, used today’s non-invasive technologies to recover the lives of eight mummies from the BM, ranging over 4,000 years. 215,000 visitors have seen the exhibition that opened on 22 May 2014 and closes on 12 July 2015.
Germany: memories of a nation was seen by 114,000 people. The accompanying 30 part BBC Radio 4 series is freely available online. There have been four million downloads of the programmes so far. The series won Radio Programme of the Year at the 2015 Broadcasting Press Guild Television and Radio Awards.
In 2015 the BM completed its installation of free WiFi in all public spaces throughout the building with funding from the Mayor of London and the Department for Culture, Media & Sport and connectivity supported by the Daisy Group.
Online visits to BM websites from 2009/10 to 2014/15 have increased from 15m to 35m, up 133% In 2010 the BM was active on just two social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter) with fewer than 50,000 followers in total. The BM now has accounts across 9 social media platforms, with over 1.6 million fans and followers.
Friends membership from 2009/10 to 2014/15 have increased from 25,000 to over 70,000, up 180%. Overall loans from 2009/10 to 2014/15 have increased from 3,133 to 4,429 up 41%. UK loans from 2009/10 to 2014/15 have increased from 1,973 (to 151 venues) to 2,803 (to 170 venues) up 42%. International loans from 2009/10 to 2014/15 have increased from 1,160 (to 105 venues) to 1,626 (to 109 venues) up 40%. Since 2010, the British Museum international touring exhibitions programme has been seen by over 5.8m visitors in 51 venues (16 countries and over 35 cities).