British Museum Archives


Interesting facts:

  • Primarily holds administrative documents for the history of the British Museum
  • Has only had a full-time archivist since 1973!
  • Contains records dating  back to 1753 when the Museum was first conceived.
  • Set up using lottery money

Francesca Hillier, the lone archivist at the British Museum, was a treasure trove of information! So much so that after a certain point I stopped taking notes just to listen to her. Her job consists not only of maintaining the archives, but of discovering what is there. Portions of the collection have been digitized, but as they do not have a book camera and only one microfilm camera it is a slow process. Archival work is no joke! It is very rewarding, however! While explaining her daily tasks and long term projects, Francesca also shared with us quite a few gems. During its infancy, the records of the archives were rather haphazardly maintained. This is not uncommon for the time period. Francesca showed us binders of documents with rather interesting labels like “Department of Particulars” and “Department Actually”–and she has the fun task of figuring out what exactly that means! As the archives are primarily filled with administrative documents like staff records, financial records, trustee documents, but also reading room applications and reader cards like these belonging to Bram Stoker:

Francesca also shared with us the story of opening a box labeled “Incendiary Bomb” only to discover the shell of one of the bombs that hit the British Museum during the Blitz. It was tucked away on a shelf, and it a testament to the sort of rather fascinating things one can find as an archivist–no matter where you’re working!


For more information on the British Museum Archives, click here.


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