Compared with other European countries, the development of arts’ institutes such as academies of arts and galleries was considerably slow in Great Britain. The Crown did not actively promote and support the arts until the late eighteenth century. Instead, voluntary clubs and societies of arts became places where connoisseurs, antiquaries, art amateurs, and artists mingled. This private-sector vitality can be seen as the British enlightenment movement on the arts scene and was to have a considerable influence on the features of the British museum. This paper shows how the enlightenment formed the British Museum and analyses the changes in purchases of collections and their backgrounds in the following three phases: Firstly, Sloane’s collection and natural history; secondly, antiquarian collections and the Dilettanti; and thirdly, the Elgin collection and aesthetic controversy. In conclusion, the museum formed by the enlightenment is characterized by the three concepts of an institute of scientific and aesthetic instruction, a cultural asylum, and a device for aesthetic critique in the public sphere.