Nowadays we have it easy when it comes to the world’s greatest museum. If you want to visit the British Museum you just have to check the website to discover that in 2014:
Museum galleries are open daily 10.00–17.30, and most are open until 20.30 on Fridays.
That’s pretty easy to understand. Of course you could worry about exactly which galleries are open late on Fridays, but generally you’ve got all the information you need to know to plan your visit.
Contrast this with the eighteenth century. Assume things were simpler back then? Not the British Museum opening hours – you needed qualifications in logic and semantics to understand when you were allowed to visit. These are the genuine instructions for people wishing to visit the British Museum in 1784:
The museum is open from nine o’clock till three o’clock every day, but Saturdays and Sundays, and during the Christmas, Easter and Whitsun holidays and on Thanksgiving and Fast days; excepting that in May, June, July and August it is open only in the afternoon from four till eight on Mondays and Fridays…
Is that clear?!
Even when you’d figured out when you could visit you had to arrive with a list of the names and rank of everyone in your party. But somethings haven’t changed…in going through the apartments, no one is to take anything from its place.
Thanks to the British Library Georgians Revealed exhibition for displaying an original of the pamphlet describing these Directions to such as apply for tickets to see the British Museum.