George Osborne’s biggest job yet: British Museum’s new chairman has to raise £1billion for radical modernisation project
- The proposed renovation work is part of the so-called ‘Rosetta Project’
- It is aimed at shifting the museum’s focus away from European history
- It will also replace creaking mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems
The British Museum is set to undergo a radical £1 billion modernisation over the next decade.
Plans are being drawn up for the refurbishment, with its recently appointed chairman, former Chancellor George Osborne, seeking to raise funding.
The proposed work is part of the so-called ‘Rosetta Project’, aimed at shifting the museum’s focus away from European history towards artefacts from Africa and South America.
Plans are being drawn up for the refurbishment, with its recently appointed chairman, former Chancellor George Osborne, seeking to raise funding
The British Museum, which has one of the largest permanent collections in the world with more than eight million pieces, was the first public national museum in the world and attracts millions of visitors each year.
In addition to refurbishing the public galleries, the work is also due to replace the creaking mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems in the 170-year-old building.
Mr Osborne was appointed chairman of the museum last year and is expected to raise funds from Government grants and private sources.
Following his time in politics, Mr Osborne enjoyed a salary of £650,000 for one day per week at the world’s largest investment bank, BlackRock, from 2017 until last year. Prior to taking up the position with the British Museum he also began a role as an investment banker at Robey Warshaw.
The age and size of the building in Central London is expected to make any renovations difficult and expensive, with fears that the cost may prove to be as dramatically underestimated as the ongoing work to the Palace of Westminster. That restoration was originally estimated to cost around £4 billion but is reportedly expected to go way over budget.
The renovation work to the British Museum is expected to cost about £1 billion, making it by far the most expensive museum refurbishment project in Britain.
The British Museum has one of the largest permanent collections in the world with more than eight million pieces
‘The whole museum needs an enormous refurbishment. The roof is falling apart, the mechanical system is falling apart.
‘The galleries are not properly heated, and that’s before you get on to the sustainability aspect,’ an insider told the Financial Times. The British Museum and the Tate Modern compete to be the UK’s most visited cultural attraction each year, with both seeing around six million visitors.
But numbers fell by 97 per cent in the pandemic, reducing the money made from admissions from £4.3 million to £300,000 in the last financial year.
The British Museum said it was looking for an ‘optimal mix’ of investment from both public and private sources but said the £1 billion budget and suggested timeline was ‘unfamiliar to us’.
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