On this day:
1759 – The British Museum opens.
The British Museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture, and is located in the Bloomsbury area of London. Its permanent collection, numbering some 8 million works, is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence and originates from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present.[a]
The British Museum was established in 1753, largely based on the collections of the physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane. The museum first opened to the public on 15 January 1759, in Montagu House, on the site of the current building. Its expansion over the following two and a half centuries was largely a result of an expanding British colonial footprint and has resulted in the creation of several branch institutions, the first being the British Museum (Natural History) in South Kensington in 1881. Some objects in the collection, most notably the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, are the objects of controversy and of calls for restitution to their countries of origin.
In 1973, the British Library Act 1972 detached the library department from the British Museum, but it continued to host the now separated British Library in the same Reading Room and building as the museum until 1997. The museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and as with all other national museums in the United Kingdom it charges no admission fee, except for loan exhibitions.
1870 – A political cartoon for the first time symbolizes the Democratic Party with a donkey (“A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion” by Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly).
An editorial cartoon, also known as a political cartoon, is an illustration containing a commentary that usually relates to current events or personalities. An artist who draws such images is known as an editorial cartoonist.
They typically combine artistic skill, hyperbole and satire in order to question authority and draw attention to corruption, political violence and other social ills.
2001 – Wikipedia, a free wiki content encyclopedia, goes online.
Wikipedia (Listeni/ˌwɪkᵻˈpiːdiə/ or Listeni/ˌwɪkiˈpiːdiə/ WIK-i-PEE-dee-ə) is a free online encyclopedia that aims to allow anyone to edit articles. Wikipedia is the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet and is ranked among the ten most popular websites. Wikipedia is owned by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation.
Wikipedia was launched on January 15, 2001, by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. Sanger coined its name, a portmanteau of wiki[notes 4] and encyclopedia. There was only the English language version initially, but it quickly developed similar versions in other languages, which differ in content and in editing practices. With 5,329,682 articles, the English Wikipedia is the largest of the more than 290 Wikipedia encyclopedias. Overall, Wikipedia consists of more than 40 million articles in more than 250 different languages and as of February 2014, it had 18 billion page views and nearly 500 million unique visitors each month.
In 2005, Nature published a peer review comparing 42 science articles from Encyclopædia Britannica and Wikipedia, and found that Wikipedia’s level of accuracy approached Encyclopædia Britannica’s. Criticism of Wikipedia includes claims that it exhibits systemic bias, presents a mixture of “truths, half truths, and some falsehoods”, and that in controversial topics, it is subject to manipulation and spin.
Born on this day:
1754 – Richard Martin, Irish activist and politician, co-founded the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (d. 1834)
Colonel Richard Martin (15 January 1754 – 6 January 1834), was an Irish politician and campaigner against cruelty to animals. He was commonly known as “Humanity Dick”, a nickname bestowed on him by King George IV. He succeeded in getting the pioneering Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act 1822, nicknamed ‘Martin’s Act’, passed into British law.
Martin is now best known for his work against animal cruelty, especially against bear baiting and dog fighting. His actions resulted eventually in Martin’s Act of 1822, entitled “Ill Treatment of Cattle Bill”. He also tried to spread his ideas in the streets of London, becoming the target of jokes and political cartoons that depicted him with ears of a donkey. He also sometimes paid fines of minor offenders.
On 16 June 1824, Martin was present when the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was founded in a London coffee shop “Old Slaughter’s”. He denied being the initiator of the society.
1929 – Martin Luther King, Jr., American minister and activist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1968)
Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr., January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs.
King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president. With the SCLC, King led an unsuccessful 1962 struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and helped organize the 1963 nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama. King also helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped to organize the Selma to Montgomery marches, and the following year he and SCLC took the movement north to Chicago to work on segregated housing. In the final years of his life, King expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty and the Vietnam War, alienating many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled “Beyond Vietnam”.
In 1968, King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People’s Campaign, when he was assassinated on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee. His death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities.
King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971, and as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor, and a county in Washington State was also renamed for him. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.