Monday, January 11, 2010

BBC and the British Museum creates 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'

The BBC and the British Museum have joined forces in an original and unprecedented public service partnership, focusing on world history. At its heart is a landmark series on BBC Radio 4, ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ which will broadcast from 18 January 2010.

This series is a narrative global history told through the British Museum’s unparalleled world collection. The series will tap in to the unique power of objects to tell stories and make connections across the globe. To produce the series the BBC and the British Museum have come together in an ambitious partnership to ensure the widest possible access and engagement across radio, television and online.

‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ is written and narrated by the British Museum Director, Neil MacGregor and produced by BBC Radio 4. The 15-minute programmes will be broadcast in the key timeslot of 09.45 from Monday to Friday (repeat at 19.45). Each programme will focus on one object from the Museum’s extensive collection and will include additional voices from a range of contributors including Bob Geldof, Wole Soyinka, Grayson Perry, Madhur Jaffrey and Seamus Heaney – and many others.

Each week of programmes will be tied to a particular theme, such as ‘after the ice age’ or ‘meeting the gods’. Objects have been selected to cover the broadest possible chronological and geographical period, and tell a history of the world from two million years ago to the present day. The 100 programmes will be broadcast in three tranches throughout 2010.

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, said, “This partnership between the BBC and the British Museum is the fulfilment of an Enlightenment dream. Parliament set up the British Museum to allow all ‘studious and curious persons’ both ‘native and foreign born’ to construct their own history of the world and to find their place in it. Thanks to the incomparable reach of the BBC – radio, television, World Service and web – as the series develops, everybody across the UK and across the world will be able to participate, using not just the things in museums, but their own objects as well, to tell their history of the world”.

Mark Damazer, Controller of Radio 4, said, “The partnership with the British Museum has brought to Radio 4 the most exciting history project in my five years as Radio 4 Controller. The idea of a 'History of The World' told through objects is audacious and it has been endlessly stimulating to see two creative organisations - animated by public service - coming together to produce what I believe will be thrilling programmes - not only on Radio 4 , but now across the BBC.”

The Radio 4 series has become the starting point for an extraordinarily far-reaching project. Both the BBC and the British Museum were keen to broaden the concept of ‘A History of the World’ and seize the potential for a wider programme of activity focusing on world history. The project will also seek to encourage listeners to explore not only the global collections of the British Museum but to engage and participate with museums across the country to discover the power of objects.

The project has expanded to include:

  • A 13-part CBBC series entitled ‘Relic: Guardians of the Museum’ broadcasting from January 2010
  • Large scale activity across the BBC Nations and English Regions, with 350 museum venues around the UK contributing.
  • Omnibus editions broadcast on the BBC World Service
  • Holding all of these elements together is an exciting and interactive digital proposition, live from January 2010. 
  • Audiences encouraged to offer objects they own to create a unique digital museum online