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Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

29 April 2013

British Museum celebrates progress on the WCEC development

With less than a year to go until the first exhibition opens in the new exhibitions gallery, the British Museum today reveals the extent of progress on the construction of its new capital project, the World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre (WCEC).

Designed by Rogers, Stirk, Harbour + Partners (RSHP) and constructed by Mace, the new Centre will cement the British Museum’s reputation as a world leader in the exhibition, conservation, examination and analysis of cultural objects from across the globe. The WCEC will enable the Museum to build on current successes, to store, conserve, study and display the collection for the future.

Located in the north-west corner of the Museum’s Bloomsbury estate, the WCEC is one of the largest redevelopment projects in the Museum’s 260 year history. The Centre will provide a new public exhibitions gallery, state-of-the-art laboratories and studios, world class stores for the collection, as well as facilities to support an extensive UK and international loan programme. This will rationalise and greatly improve the Museum’s operations on-site, and modernise facilities ‘behind the scenes’. These will allow the Museum to extend support to our UK and International partners in terms of increasing capacity for staff training and joint projects.

The building consists of five pavilions (one of which is sunk into the ground) and the design is sensitive to the British Museum’s existing architecture, connecting to the historic building whilst maintaining its own identity. The exhibitions gallery is due to open in early March 2014 with a new exhibition devoted to the Vikings (supported by BP). It is anticipated the conservation studios, science laboratories, loans hub and stores will be fitted out and occupied by summer 2014.

The total cost of the project is £135 million. The Linbury Trust, established by John Sainsbury (Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover KG), and the Monument Trust, established by Simon Sainsbury have together committed £25 million towards the project, one of the largest gifts to the arts in the UK in recent decades, which will be used to fund the exhibition gallery. The Heritage Lottery Fund has committed £10 million towards the project. Other significant benefactors include the Wolfson Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the A.G. Leventis Foundation and the family of Constantine Leventis, the Clothworkers’ Foundation, the Fidelity U.K. Foundation, Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement, the Band Trust and others as well as continued support from the Department for Culture Media and Sport (worth £22.5 million over 4 years). A fundraising campaign from the British Museum Members is underway.