British Museum sends artefacts overseas as UK funding falls

The British Museum is no longer just for the British, it seems. As Government funding falls and the museum seeks other sources of cash, the UK's most popular visitor attraction has more exhibitions on tour than ever before and is increasingly targeting wealthy countries.

The museum has sent artefacts to Abu Dhabi, Australia, Japan and China in the past year and is planning a major collaboration in India.

Neil MacGregor, the museum's director, said: "Because it is a global collection, it is now being used across the globe. Many of these countries have a stake in supporting us." Speaking at the launch of the museum's annual review yesterday, he added: "Lending and acting around the world, there are countries willing to help us. The support is a global one... They are all privately funded."

The 2011/12 financial year was the first that Government funding was matched, pound for pound, by other revenue streams, including corporate sponsorship, memberships and donations from wealthy individuals. "There is a much greater willingness by the private sector to get involved," Mr MacGregor said.

Closer to home, he warned about the threat to regional museums.

"It is crucial for regional institutions to get people through the door," he said, and to persuade their local authorities not to cut funding. "Our job is to give them the means to persuade the local authorities," he added.

The British Museum welcomed 5.8 million visitors last year. Its exhibitions over the next year cover art from the Ice Age as well as Pompeii.

The annual report also pointed to donations this year including the complete set of Picasso's Vollard Suite, as well as 17th century private tokens from London and a badge commemorating Aung San Suu Kyi's visit to the UK.

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