British Museum sees spike in online visitors and virtual tour 'guests' as website traffic doubles

The British Museum said it has seen a surge in online visitors after closing its doors.

There has been a spike in interest in the museum's online content and virtual tours, it said, since it shut because of the coronavirus pandemic.The number of visitors to its website doubled in the past two-and-a-half weeks, it said, to 978,548 users - up from 472,890 in the same period last year.

The most online visitors are now from Italy, it said.

British Museum director Hartwig Fischer said: "Culture gives comfort in times of turmoil, it unites us and makes us understand what it means to be human. "As the world grapples with this current crisis, I am glad that so many people are coming to the website and online collections of the British Museum. "Our collection bears witness to humanity's ability to survive and indeed thrive in precarious times."

As well as "virtual tours", online visitors are also searching for treasures such as the Rosetta Stone and the Lewis Chessmen.The National Gallery also recorded "a huge increase in the number of users taking a look at our virtual tours and online collection".

It said it has seen a 20% increase in the number of website sessions this week (Monday to Thursday) compared to the same time last week.The British Museum, National Gallery, Tate galleries, Victoria And Albert Museum, National Portrait Gallery and The Royal Academy are among those to have closed their doors.