The British Museum is the oldest of the great national museums. Parliament founded the museum in 1753. The collection includes thousands of books, manuscripts, and natural history specimens. The staff is more than a thousand.
Among the highlights of the museum's collections are the controversial Elgin Marbles, which were removed from the Parthenon in Athens in the 19th century. The museum also has one of the largest coins and medals collections in the world. Its Egyptian antiquities constitute the largest and most comprehensive collection of its kind outside Cairo and illustrates every aspect of ancient Egyptian culture. The Ethnography department is concerned with studying and collecting from the cultures of recent and contemporary small-scale indigenous societies.
The museum has one of the most representative collection of Western prints and drawings in existence, covering the development of printmaking from its beginnings in the 15th century up to modern times.