Located smack bang in the Great Court of the British Museum is a curiosity that has eluded visitors for the past decade. Towering over guests, and inaccessible to the curious, the Round Reading Room is a proper enigma. What hides inside? What relics of years past are hidden within their walls? Well, now’s your chance to find out. The British Museum is offering guided tours of the space – giving bibliophiles a chance to check out the legendary archival room.
What is the Round Reading Room?
The room was once the site of the British library, before it relocated to its current home in St Pancras in 2008. It also dates back all the way to 1857! As such, it has been privy to such visitors and students ranging from Arthur Conan Doyle to Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and even Lenin. Following the relocation of the library, the room was used as an exhibit space briefly, before finding its current role: storing the museum’s archive of books and papers and objects that trace the museum’s history.
In fact, the new tours mark the first time that the space has allowed museum-goers in since ceasing operation as an exhibition space in 2013. Yup, it’s the first time in a decade that we’re being allowed in! The room was briefly re-opened in 2018 for a series of concerts, but this didn’t provide visitors a chance to see the space in its intended role.
Touring the space
Now, the tour will only last twenty minutes, and the volunteer tour guides will be keeping a close eye on visitors – so you won’t be able to sneak off and investigate the centuries old documents. And, no, it’s not a library so you won’t be able to borrow any of the books. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty impressive sight for bookworms and history buffs alike. Do be aware, though, that no photography is permitted!
Tours run once a week, on Tuesdays currently, and kick off at 11:30am. The tours are completely free, but do require signing up ahead of time. Oh, and they only have space for 20 people in each tour group, so you’ll definitely want to give yourself plenty of time to book ahead. In fact, all of the tours for March and April are already completely sold out!
Further dates are announced each month, for the subsequent month. May tour dates will be released for booking on Tuesday, April 4. We’re marking that in our calendar so we can see ALL THE OLD BOOKS!