Monday 8 March 2010

A History of the World in 100 Collected Objects

Tom Flynn started the debate on this winter's BBC cultural blockbuster, A History of the World in 100 Objects, narrated by British Museum director Neil MacGregor:
The most remarkable thing about the British Museum's forthcoming collaboration with the BBC — A History of the World in 100 Objects — is the almost total lack of critical response to the project from any quarter save for a few lonely voices of indignation echoing from the African subcontinent. Instead we've witnessed a nauseating media hagiography of British Museum director Neil MacGregor in which he single-handedly educates the world from the comfort of his beautiful Bloomsbury office.

Followers of cultural heritage issues will not be surprised that foremost among those "few lonely voices" is that of prolific writer Kwame Opoku. On 6 February 2010He published a text called A History of the World with 100 Looted Objects of Others: Global Intoxiation? which was reprinted on Feb 25th as Africa: History Through a Hundred Looted Objects. Either is well worth reading containing as they do the same consistent arguments we have come to expect from this author.
There is an odd thing about this whole affair... 100 objects is a radio programme. McGregor does not even need the objects in front of him to tell his story, the viewer is led to imagine the picture he paints with his words. So why "things"? Why not "places"? A history of the World in 100 places could be made every bit as interesting (100 places which the viewer can visit on Google Earth maybe while listening). Why do we need these isolated "things" at all?

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