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A tradition of change

Since the British Museum opened in 1759 it has continued to change and add to its buildings. In 2000 we completed the extensive refurbishment of the Great Court and, over a decade later, we are proud to still be helping future-proof this unique cultural resource for the world, having completed the Museum’s latest and largest project to date, the World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre (WCEC).

Challenging restoration

3,312 panes of glass, no two the same, form the highly distinctive Great Court roof. A demanding task in itself, the installation required a 20 metre high scaffold and 593 props to support the construction. These dizzy heights were in direct contrast to the WCEC, 68% of which is below ground level and involved going deep underground to excavate 37,000 cubic metres of materials - enough to fill 15 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“Throughout their work, Mace has shown exemplary attention to detail and have fully met the British Museum's high standards set for the project”

C E I Jones
Head of Administration and Great Court Client Project Sponsor

Behind the walls

With over 6.5 million visitors every year, closing the galleries for construction was never an option. Keeping the Museum’s facilities open while minimising disruption to local residents was just a small part of the challenge. The need to use a 140 tonne rig just metres away from the Parthenon sculptures gives you some idea of the delicate nature of the job, a challenge which called for the use of sensitive construction techniques such as a vibration monitoring system, and the UK’s first drop reach excavator and which gave new meaning to the word teamwork.

This complex and historically inspiring project has been much more than an extension, the WCEC is the first step in a 20 year master plan that will future-proof the Museum, ensuring the care of its collections for future generations.

“The World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre is an important – and beautiful – addition to Bloomsbury. Rogers, Stirk, Harbour + Partners and Mace have designed and delivered a wonderfully flexible building which provides the Museum with the facilities it needs to achieve our future ambitions. I am grateful to all of our extremely generous donors who have enabled us to undertake this project and all of the staff who have worked so hard to bring it to fruition”

Neil MacGregor
British Museum Director

Key facts


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