British Museum Expands Online Collection to Include 4 Million Items


Relief plaque made of brass cast
Relief plaque made of brass cast
Photo: The British Museum

With objects like the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon sculptures in its collection, London’s British Museum has earned its place on many bucket lists. But like many cultural institutions throughout the world, the museum is closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while that’s bad news for anyone who had plans to visit the museum in person, it’s good news for the rest of us: Amid the closure, the museum has expanded their online collection to include nearly 4.5 million objects.

How to search for specific objects

Not only are there more items available for your virtual visit, but the museum has also redeveloped the online search function, making it much easier to find specific objects. It even offers suggestions as you type. And with a collection of items spanning two million years of history and prehistory gathered from across six continents, having a more intuitive search function is really helpful. The museum also provides instructions for conducting your search:

Start typing in the search box.

As you type, suggested searches will appear below to help you find what you’re looking for.

Select one of the suggestions or press enter to run a search.

If you want to search for a phrase or sentence, add quotation marks around it – for example “gold plated”.

After running a search, you’ll end up with a set of results which you can filter to narrow down and find what you’re looking for.


Painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Photo: The British Museum

How to virtually browse the collections

If you don’t have a particular collection or object in mind, you can also do a virtual walk-through of the museum, and stroll from room to room exploring more than 60 galleries that align to the museum’s physical layout using Google Street View. Alternatively, the museum has highlighted some of its most-visited galleries—like the Egyptian sculpture gallery (which contains the Rosetta Stone) and the Medieval Europe 1050-1500 gallery (including the Lewis Chessman)—so you can jump the line and check out the most famous artifacts up close.

The Lewis Chessman
The Lewis Chessman
Photo: The British Museum

There are also two collections that are only available virtually: a display of objects from Oceania and an extensive collection of prints and drawings dating back to the 1400s.

If you’re not sure where to start, or would like some company on your virtual tour, you can take one of a series of audio tours narrated by the museum’s curators, which are available to download on Apple Music and Google Play. The audio tours are available in English, Korean, Chinese, Italian and Spanish.