This fascinating, complex book relies for its success on the simplest of ideas and methodologies. Its publication was the necessary and inevitable follow-on from the hugely successful BBC Radio 4 series, when, over twenty weeks, British Museum (BM) director Neil MacGregor presented short, daily radio commentaries, in thematically conceived groups of five, on one hundred objects carefully selected from the BM’s vast holdings. The fact that a regular, continuing series of radio commentaries on a group of unseen museum objects achieved such popularity – indeed, a kind of cult status – is a testament not only to MacGregor’s skills and reputation as a popular communicator, but also to the method adopted in describing and contextualising each object. It also represents a brilliant marketing coup, demonstrating what the power of the media can do to ignite new interest in what is arguably the most important collection of the material culture of mankind existing anywhere – but displayed in an institution which has traditionally been seen as very worthy and necessary (in the educational, self-improving sense), but perhaps dull. It goes without saying that such a series would never get up in contemporary Australia.
Gerard Vaughan reviews 'A History of the World in 100 Objects' by Neil MacGregor
A History of the World in 100 Objects
by Neil MacGregor
Allen Lane, $49.95 hb, 733 pp, 9781846144134
Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month. We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen. If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.
Gerard Vaughan, appointed Director of the National Gallery of Victoria in 1999, is an art historian with extensive experience within the international art and museum worlds. His research interests are particularly concerned with the history of taste and art collecting in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, ranging from neo-classicism to post-impressionism. He was previously director of the British Museum Development Trust and has recently been appointed Gervy Higgins Professorial Fellow in Art History at the University of Melbourne.
By this contributor
Leave a comment
Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.
NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.