At that time, Sir Sloane's collection consisted of around 71,000 objects of all kinds including 40,000 printed books, 7,000 manuscripts, prints and drawings and antiquities from Rome, Greece, Egypt, America the and the Far East.
The British Museum was the first of a new kind of museum - national, belonging to neither church nor king, freely open to the public and aiming to collect everything. The Museum was founded more than 250 years ago as an encycloedia of nature and art. The Museum preserves its universality in its collections of artefacts representing the cultures of the world, ancient and modern. The original 1753 collection has grown to over thirteen million objects at the British Museum, 70 million at the Natural History Museum and 150 million at the British Library.
The Round Reading Room, opened in 1857. For almost 150 years researchers came here to consult the Museum's vast library. The Reading Room closed in 1997 when the national library (the British Library) moved to a new building at St. Pancras. Today it has been transformed into the Walter and Leonore Anneberg Centre. This contains the Paul Hamlyn Library of books about the Museum's collections, which is open to all visitors.
The Great Court, opened in 2000, while undoubtedly improving circulation around the museum, was criticised for having a lack of exhibition space at a time when the museum was in serious financial difficulties and many galleries were closed to the public. At the same time the African and Oceanic collections that had been temporarily housed in 6 Burlington Gardens were given a new gallery in the North Wing.
Nowadays the museum is a popular cultural tourist destination bringin in a very large number of tourists annually.