Half British Museum collection now online with close-up of Easter Island statue

The attraction decided to bring forward its plans during the lockdown.
The attraction decided to bring forward its plans during the lockdown.

Zoom technology is to help people get close to the famous Easter Island statue at the British Museum.

The attraction has revamped its online collection so that more than four million objects – over half its collection – can be seen virtually.

Some artefacts, including the Easter Island sculpture Hoa Hakananai’a, can now be seen on “a level of detail inaccessible to the naked eye”.

The helmet from Sutton Hoo is in the British Museum’s online collection (British Museum/PA)

The statue has been in the British Museum for more than 150 years and Easter Islanders have called for it to be returned.

An Admonitions Scroll made in China more than 1,600 years ago can also now be seen at close quarters, with more images using Zoom technology to be added in the coming weeks.

The online collection, first created in 2007, already includes the museum’s most famous objects, such as the Rosetta Stone, the artefacts of Sutton Hoo, the Cyrus Cylinder, the Elgin Marbles and the Benin Bronzes.

But recent acquisitions, such as the 73 portraits by Damien Hirst drawn on food-marked placemats, a previously lost watercolour by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and a 3,000-year-old Bronze Age pendant, have been added.

A metope sculpture from the Parthenon showing a mythical battle between a Centaur and a Lapith (The Trustees of the British Museum/PA)

All objects the museum holds from Ancient Egypt, every item from Australia, more than 750,000 prints by artists Rembrandt, William Hogarth and Kara Walker, some 50,000 English coins from the medieval period to the Tudors, and sculptures from Ancient Greece and Rome, are also in the collection.

Some 280,000 new object photographs and 85,000 new records are being published for the first time.

The revamp was brought forward because of the lockdown.

British Museum director Hartwig Fischer said: “The British Museum Collection Online makes millions of objects accessible to the citizens of the world, wherever they might be.

“We are delighted to be able to unveil this major revamp early, and hope that these important objects can provide inspiration, reflection or even just quiet moments of distraction during this difficult time.”

The museum said it has seen a huge surge in traffic to its website since it closed its doors.