The British Museum will receive pounds 30m lottery money towards a new glass roof for the Great Court, designed by Sir Norman Foster, which will be opened for the first time in 150 years for the millennium.
The two and a half-acre site at the centre of the museum, which receives 6 million visitors a year, will be transformed into a piazza, with galleries, restaurants and rest areas. It includes the Round Reading Room, which will be opened to the public for the first time.
Dr Robert Anderson, director of the museum, said: "The trustees and staff are delighted we can make a very significant contribution to the celebration of the new millennium."
He added: "The Great Court will enhance the British Museum's position as one of the leading international museums and it will help us deal with major problems of overcrowding."
The idea of a glass roof for the courtyard, which formed part of the original building of the 1820s, was first mooted in 1852, using the same technology as the Crystal Palace.
When the British Library, based in the Round Reading Room where Karl Marx once studied, announced three years ago it was going to move to St Pancras, the scheme was revived, with the intention of transforming the inner court into the focus of the building, as it was originally intended.
The total cost of the renovations, which will begin in 1998, will be pounds 72m. The museum has raised pounds 21m independently.Reuse content