The British Museum is famous for its objects, which represent over 2 million years of human history and culture. The objects speak to us thanks to the experts who have helped to tell their stories for well over two centuries. This podcast takes a fresh look at some of the tales that have shaped the Museum’s story – both famous and less well known.
The Museum podcast #20: The Great Court at 20
This month we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Great Court, so Sian and Francesca head to the archives to find out more about the building of this incredible space. Also from the archives we have an interview with Rentakill hawker Laura alongside Stella the Harris hawk, who used to frequent the Museum to try and rid the outside spaces of pesky pigeons. Curator Irving Finkel also talks about the history of chess and backgammon in excerpts first recorded for the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic world.
The Museum podcast episode #19: the Arctic, Renaissance jewels and illicit antiquities
This month Hugo and Sushma check in with Amber Lincoln, lead curator of the Citi exhibition ‘Arctic: culture and climate’. They talk with Rachel King, curator of European Renaissance, about the Waddesdon Bequest and a special display of a 19th-century ewer. Finally, archaeologist Sebastien Rey describes a beautiful fragment that was illegally excavated in Iraq, that will be repatriated in December.
The Museum Podcast #18: Collection Care, Tantra and a return to the archive
This month hails Hugo and Sushma’s triumphant return – they are talking with Sandra Smith, head of Collection Care about how your breath helps objects in the galleries. Sushma chats with Imma Ramos, lead curator of our new Tantra exhibition, and Sian and Francesca meet in the archives once again to talk about the staff canteen, of all things.
The Museum podcast #17: National Programmes and afternoon tea
This month Sushma returns to presenting, talking with Maria Bojanowska, Dorset Foundation Head of National Programmes – they discuss the many ways the British Museum makes the collection accessible nationwide. Food historian Tasha Marks is back, this time taking a sip of history and looking at how afternoon tea came to be, and finally Lead Archaeologist Sebastien Rey gives an insight into which object he is most excited to see now that the Museum has reopened.
International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition
The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition falls on 23 August.
To mark this date, Hartwig Fischer and Sushma Jansari are joined by guests Olivette Otele and Bonnie Greer to discuss the legacies of slavery, its impact on today’s society, and how museums should respond to these histories both now and in the future.
The wide-ranging conversation touches on how the British Museum engages with its own history, how it was shaped by empire, questions who ‘writes’ history, and reflects on how museums and institutions can widen access, increase diversity and co-curate effectively.
Bonnie Greer is a writer, playwright, broadcaster, critic and political commentator, and former Deputy Chair of the British Museum.
Olivette Otele is Professor of the History of Slavery at Bristol University and Vice-President of the Royal Historical Society and the Chair for Bristol’s Race Equality Commission.
The Museum Podcast Special: Sir Hans Sloane
In 1753, Sir Hans Sloane bequeathed his collection of over 70,000 objects to the nation, founding the British Museum’s collection, and those that would become the British Library and Natural History Museum.
His collection spanned from natural history specimens to ancient sculpture, plants and contemporary 18th-century objects. But Sloane’s collecting is tied closely to colonialism, empire and slavery – his family profited from sugar plantations in Jamaica worked by enslaved people, and some of the objects in his collection were also collected with assistance from enslaved people. So how do we navigate Sloane’s story in the 21st century?
Guests Miranda Lowe and James Delbourgo explore Sloane’s life, collecting and legacy with Hartwig Fischer and Sushma Jansari, and examine the role of slavery and enslaved people in his collection and collecting practices. They also consider how museums should respond to these histories and to figures like Sloane.
Miranda Lowe is Principal Curator and museum scientist at the Natural History Museum.
James Delbourgo is the James Westfall Thompson Distinguished Professor of History at Rutgers University, New Jersey.