27 January 2010

A History of the World in 100 Objects

Double-headed serpent, 15th-16th century AD, Mexico

The BBC always seems to come up with new ways of making us excited about culture. This time, the beeb has teamed up with British Museum director Neil Macgregor, who will host one hundred fifteen-minute programmes on Radio Four retelling the history of the world using one hundred selected objects curated by the BM.

Don't worry about not being able to see the object over the wireless, each programme has
its semi-neophyte commentor who handles it and tells you what it feels like — which is more than what you get when you look at an object in a museum. Also, the AHOFW website let's you zoom in to photos of the objects and twirl them around even.

The series began last week and runs until the end of the year. The BBC allows you to listen again to its programmes for at least one week, if not the entire series.

The first episode felt a bit flat and MacGregor took half of the fifteen minutes to set the show up — he even lays the ground for what surely will be a stern defence of the BM holding on to the Elgin Marbles, religious artifacts from Africa and everything else the BM has "acquired" which other cultures are claiming back. If you've been to the BM you'll know why people call it
the non-British Museum and it's appalling that the museum plays the "it's the world's heritage card" to sometimes incredibly disadvantaged nations. If the BBC can do it online over the radio, then it surely could do it from any place where some treasures might have been returned.

Even though my eyebrows were raised for much of the first episode, the following efforts are proving more fascinating than the next. We can only imagine how smart I'll be by year's end having only spare a few moments five times a day.

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