Guinness World Records - Officially Amazing

255th anniversary of the British Museum: Ten of the London institution's best world record exhibits to mark its birthday

 
 
 
 
 
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The British Museum, today celebrates its 255th anniversary, a milestone that Google have marked with a Doodle on its search page.

The museum has stood in on the same site London’s Bloomsbury district since it was established in 1753 before opening for free entry to the public on 15 January 1759.

The original gathering of 71,000 artifacts, including 40,000 printed books, , 7,000 manuscripts, and a large group of natural history specimens from across the world, was based on scientist Sir Hans Sloane's collection.

Now more than seven million objects of archaeological and ethnographical significance are housed there, including the earliest image of Jesus Christ, the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles.

When it first opened its doors, around 75 people a day would trickle through to see its array of artifacts. Today the museum announced record annual visitor numbers with 33,848 people visiting on its busiest day last year.

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To mark the museum’s anniversary, here are ten world record associated to the British institution and its exhibits.

In 1846, two specimens of the desert snail (Eremina desertorum) were presented to the British Museum (Natural History) as dead exhibits. They were glued on a small tablet and placed on display. Four years later, in March 1850, the Museum staff, suspecting that one of the snails was still alive, removed it from the tablet and placed it in tepid water. The snail moved and later began to feed. This hardy little creature lived for a further two years, setting a record for longest suspended animation – molluscs, before it fell into a torpor and died.

The largest known cigarette card collection is that formerly belonging to Edward Wharton-Tigar (1913-95) of London with over 1 million cigarette and trade cards in some 45,000 sets. This collection was bequeathed to the British Museum after his death, which was later made available for public study at the museum.

The largest jaw ever recorded on a mammal belongs to the sperm whale or cachalot (Physeter macrocephalus), measuring 5 m (16 ft 5 in) long and exhibited in the British Museum, London, UK. The huge structure belonged to a male whale nearly 25.6 m (84 ft) in length. Sperm whales are also the largest toothed whales.

A pair of African elephant (Loxodonta africana) tusks exhibited in the Natural History wing hold the record for heaviest tusk. Procured from a bull shot in Kenya in 1897, they weigh 109 kg (240 lb) - 3.11 m (10 ft 2 in) in length - and 102 kg (225 lb) - 3.18 m (10 ft 5 in) in length - giving a total weight of 211 kg (465 lb). Their combined weight today is 200 kg (440 lb 8 oz).

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The British Museum ranks as the UK’s largest and most visited museum in the United Kingdom. The main building in Bloomsbury, London was begun in 1823 and has a total floor area of 8.7 ha (21.5 acres). In 1994, 6,286,838 people passed through its doors. However, the record for the world’s largest museum is held by the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Founded in 1869, it 23 interconnected buildings and planetarium contain 111,000 m2 (1.2 million ft2) of floor space, accommodating more than 30 million artifacts and specimens, with the museum attracting approximately three million visitors each year.

The world's heaviest flying bird is the kori bustard (Ardeotis kori) of South and East Africa, males of which can weigh up to 18.2 kg (40 lb) -  the weight of the largest confirmed specimen, as documented in 1936. It was shot in South Africa by H.T. Glynn, and its head and neck were later presented by Glynn to the British Museum.

One of the earliest uses of the Schüfftan process movie special effect - a technique which utilizes mirrors to create the illusion of actors interacting with huge, realistic-looking sets featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s silent film Blackmail in 1929 for a famous chase sequence in and over the British Museum where the light was too low to shoot for real (watch the sequence below).

Devised by cinematographer Eugen Schüfftan (Germany) in 1923, while Hitchcock’s usage of the effect is among the most well know, the record for first use of the Schufftan process special effect in a movie belongs to the German movie version of Wagner’s Die Nibelungen directed by Fritz Lang in 1924. The special effect was so advanced it was still being used as late as 2003, in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

The first scientific reference to a marine reptile appeared in 1719, published in the journal Philosophical Transactions. It was written by Dr William Stukely, a scholar and antiquarian, who described the partial remains of what was later shown to be a fossil plesiosaur that had been found in Nottinghamshire, England.

Stukely presented its remains to the Royal Society, and they are now housed at the British Museum.

In the 1920s, archaeological excavations at Nuzi in northern Iraq turned up a series of clay tablets dating to 2300 BC that depict the Euphrates river and nearby hills, streams and settlements. The ancient clay “maps” represent the earliest direct evidence of cartography. Recognised by Guinness World Records as the first clay tablet maps, both the British Museum and the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts feature examples of the maps in their collections.

The world's smallest dragonfly is Agriocnemis naia of Myanmar (Burma). A specimen in the British Museum (Natural History) hasa wing spread of 17.6 mm (0.69 in) and a body length of 18 mm (0.71 in).

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