In 2019, The British Museum was granted planning permission to build a brand new facility next to the Thames Valley Science Park in Shinfield, Berkshire. The plan is to house a sizeable part of its Archaeological Research Collection there - including a number of historically significant sculptures, mosaics, archaeological assemblages and historic casts.

The additional 15,628 square metres will provide the Museum some much needed space. Its archives in Blythe House are closing in 2023. But the plans for the site are more ambitious than just a means to store overspill. The collection will be publicly viewable and the Museum will establish a research partnership with the University of Reading. 

Of particular interest to those following recent deaccession and loan developments in the UK, for example those involving the Benin Bronzes, will be the establishment of a new national and international loan hub, which will be based out of the new premises. The move suggests that the Museum intends to take a more proactive and possibly flexible approach to managing the many works that are not currently on display in Bloomsbury (which constitutes roughly 1% of the Museum’s holdings). This may even be an indication that there is a growing open-mindedness to the lending, if not restitution, of some of the more controversial elements of its collection.

The development is ongoing despite Covid, with some non-material changes requested from Wokingham Borough Council in February of this this year.