The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A History of the World in 100 Objects

I have just listened to A History of the World in 100 Objects. It was an interesting choice with which to start - Mummy of Hornedjitef- and the theme of cultural commonality was not, of course, in the least bit political...

No, in fairness, the program was interesting. In choosing NOT to run chronologically, there are of course a number of implications. It is possible to debate whether this was the right choice or not - potentially confusing for some people, I suppose. But perhaps on the other hand the construction of a linear history would suggest a certain level of didacticism that I imagine the BBC and BM wish to steer clear of. Also, the website allows you to explore the objects in a variety of ways - chronologically being one of them.

The program seems, on this first hearing, to be very much a personal project for Neil MacGregor. In a sense, this is nice - it humanises the man, it humanises the BM, and it provides the listening public with the notion that perhaps to explore a museum is not necessarily to explore a given, certain set of facts, but is in fact an opportunity to create their own story and their own knowledge. One of the nice things about the program was that it admitted wholesale that the meanings of objects change over time, that technologies are always evolving which alter our understanding and perception of things which we often consider so fixed and certain.

Through exploring the website, we become aware that there are significant themes which govern the division of the objects throughout the run of the show - currently, we are following the theme 'Making Us Human (2,000,000-8,000BC)'. So there is, perhaps, a certain sense of chronology, but it is not strict and it is not the be all and end all. The site is rather nicely presented, in my opinion, with the methods by which you can experience the objects identified clearly down the side. When you choose to examine an object in more detail, you are given both a brief explanation of the object and some thoughts of the curators and people involved in it's care. You're also able to reach the link to the BM's site, and find out even more there. Through a fact file you can explore other objects, which are related to your chosen piece in various ways.

If you click on the image, you can manipulate it, move it around and zoom in - particularly nicely, if you zoom in far enough, you can find little explanatory and illustrative tags about particular features of the object.

While you can't add your opinion to the BM's objects, which is a bit of a shame, perhaps, but also in part understandable, you can add your own objects. Local involvement is also a major theme - you can add your own important items to the Leicester website, if you want to

http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/leicester/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8353000/8353069.stm

They are hoping to keep a blog running throughout the year - you can find that here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ahistoryoftheworld/

This is the main website http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/explorerflash/#

All in all, I'm interested to see how this progresses. I'm also interested in your views about the programme and project more generally - please feel free to comment and post away, please!

3 comments:

Tom Spalding said...

Commenting on all objects, including the British Museum's is coming soon. Some technical implications have held it up for launch, but will be in relatively shortly.

Glad you enjoyed the programme and website. Plenty more to come!

Jenny said...

Brill, thank you!! So good to get your comment!

Amy said...

I listened to the first programme when it was broadcast and quite enjoyed it - I liked the personal slant, the links and connections made, the multidisciplinary approach. I thought it was very 'museum studies' - which is, of course, a good thing. :)

Its worth mentioning that each programme is available as a podcast, which you can subscribe to via iTunes. My iPhone is loaded up with four at the moment - looking forward to listening to them.

Have yet to have a good look at the website - but from what you say Jenny it sounds impressive and, most crucially, informative. See, it's on great things like this that your TV licence goes towards - hurrah!