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London's First Museum

The first Museum in Britain was John Tradescant's Ark in Lambeth.  The Tradescants (father and son) were plant hunters and collector's of Curiosities. The Museum included natural history objects as well as antiquities, and ethnography.  The collection was eventually, and somewhat controversially, inherited by Elias Ashmole, who set up the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford using Tradescant's Ark.  

The Tradescants are buried in St. Mary-At-Lambeth, which is now the Museum of Garden History.  Their tomb is fascinating, and found in the midst of the Museum's beautiful replica Knot Garden. For more on the history of Museums click here:

Sir Hans Sloane and the Foundation of the British Museum

The world's first great National Museum was created from another great collection of Curiosities.  The 18th Century Physician Sir Hans Sloane stored his collection in his house in Chelsea, formerly one of the many homes of Henry VIII. After Sloane's death the Government set up a Lottery to purchase the collection and house it at Montague House in Bloomsbury. The Sloane Collection forms the core of the British Museum, the Natural History Museum and the British Library.

The Origins of Museums Lecture .

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Page Last Updated 13 November 2006