The British Museum is receiving a $38 million gift from John Sainsbury, the former chairman of the British supermarket chain. The donation is one of the biggest gifts to the arts in recent decades and will help the British Museum fund an extension and preserve its collection of ancient artifacts.

British cultural institutions are facing deep cuts in public funding as the new government works to balance the country's budget. The British Museum, located in London, receives about 5 million visitors a year. Its collection includes the Rosetta Stone, the Lewis Chessmen, and the Elgin Marbles.

Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, 82, is a former chairman of the supermarket chain and a generous supporter of the arts. He was one of three brothers responsible for taking the family business public in 1973.

The donation to the British Museum is the biggest public donation to the arts in Britain since billionaire philanthropist Sir Paul Getty pledged £50 million to the National Gallery along with £40 million to the British Film Institute in 1985.

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