Major new partnership with the University of Reading

  • The British Museum Archaeological Research Collection will be housed in a new facility in Wokingham Borough
  • Collections from Bloomsbury and Blythe House will be rehoused in the new facility
  • The study collection will be more accessible for research and for loans across the country and internationally
  • This partnership is the first of its kind between a national museum and a UK university to deliver public and research benefits

British Museum objects currently stored in Blythe House.

Subject to planning permission, the British Museum and University of Reading are hoping to locate this new facility next to the Thames Valley Science Park, on land located within Wokingham Borough. The facility will house a portion of the research collection from the British Museum including world-renowned archaeological collections of ancient sculpture, mosaics, archaeological assemblages and historic cast collections. Many of the objects will be moved from Blythe House in London, which is currently home to around two million objects from the collections of the British Museum, Science Museum and the V&A, and is due to close in 2023.

Blythe House. By Docben via Wikimedia Commons.

This is a really exciting partnership that will give researchers, academics and other institutions more access to the British Museum’s incredible Blythe House collection. Blythe House is a treasure trove of historic artefacts and we are investing £150 million to help museums create new world-class facilities to protect and preserve this unique and important collection.

John Glen, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism

The new development will not be a second British Museum but it will be an active and integral part of the organisation and its focus on global research. Study rooms will give university students, academics and members of the public access to the collection. The facility will include a dedicated loans hub which will support lending across the UK and internationally. The Museum hopes to work closely with local museums on loans and other projects.

A selection of Iron Age jewellery currently in storage at Blythe House.

This is a hugely exciting project for the British Museum and will be a cornerstone of the Museum’s masterplan. I am delighted we are partnering with the University of Reading on the project. The Museum’s study is of incomparable research value and the facility will ensure more access to the collection for study and loans, fulfilling two of the central purposes of the British Museum.

Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum

The University of Reading is already an important research partner of the British Museum, with major groundbreaking projects based on the Museum’s archaeological collections. This includes a Reading-led study, along with the University of Manchester, of excavated prehistoric grave goods to better explain the role of objects in the lives of people living in ancient Britain. This project will underpin interpretation of the displays in the Museum’s public gallery of Europe and the Middle East, 10,000–800 BC. The Museum has also worked with Reading on several collaborative PhD studentships. The University of Reading offers a strong range of teaching and research programmes with direct relevance to areas of the British Museum collection – from Palaeolithic prehistory to later world archaeology and history.

We are delighted to be partnering with the British Museum to develop this important storage and research facility. The University has an impressive collection of museums – this partnership is a natural extension of our work that will benefit not only our students and academics, but the local community and beyond.

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading

The British Museum and the University of Reading will engage the community in a broader public consultation before any planning application is submitted to Wokingham Borough Council. If the planning application is successful it is anticipated that the facility will be completed in time to allow objects from Blythe House to be moved by the end of March 2023.