The BBC and British Museum announce
‘A History of the World’- a unique and unprecedented
partnership focusing on world history for 2010


Neil MAcgregor
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. www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld (holding page will be up from 25 November 2009)
  • Audiences encouraged to offer objects they own to create a unique digital museum online.

The legacy of ‘A History of the World’ will be secured through the website and through the work across the Nations and English Regions.

For further information please contact:

British Museum
Hannah Boulton – 020 7323 8522 / hboulton@britishmuseum.org

BBC
Sian Davis – 020 7765 2629/ sian.davis@bbc.co.uk

Additional information

BBC Radio 4 - A History of the World in 100 Objects

From 18th January 2010 at 9.45-10.00am (repeated at 7.45pm and 00.30). The 100 part series will be split in to three tranches throughout 2010. An omnibus is planned for when the weekly episodes are off air. The series is produced by BBC Audio & Music Factual for Radio 4.

'A History of the World in 100 Objects' is, unusually, a global history told through, and about, objects. Each of the 100 episodes in the series focuses on a different object from the British Museum’s collection. Writer and presenter Neil MacGregor tells the fascinating stories behind the chosen item, which may be anything from a mundane tool to a great work of art, but which must be man-made. The series is chronological, beginning with some of the earliest objects from Tanzania dating to almost two million years ago, and running up to the present day. The final 100th object has yet to be chosen but will be a contemporary item that will be acquired by the British Museum.

The series explores the key developments in human history, from ancient cultures and more recent events - some objects will be familiar, others equally fascinating but less well known. Neil MacGregor tells of parallel developments that took place throughout our global history, which highlight often unexpected connections and universal themes. Any given week in the series will give listeners a sense of the cultural achievements across the world during a particular time period.

BBC CBBC  -  Relic: Guardians of the Museum

BBC ONE, for 13 weeks from January 21st at 4.30pm. To be repeated on CBBC later in the year. 

The BBC continues its partnership with the British Museum in ‘Relic: Guardians of the Museum’ - a new 13-part series for CBBC in which teams of children face the challenge of a lifetime. The children visit the Museum at night to unlock the mysteries behind 13 of the objects featured in, and inspired by, the Radio 4 series.

Accompanied on their journey through the Museum by Agatha, a mysterious and ghostly tour guide, the adventurers must complete challenges and confront visions from the past in their quest for answers. While avoiding the “dark forces” that roam the galleries at night, they will discover the history behind some of the Museum’s most famous exhibits, including the mystery of the Easter Island Statue; how the Rosetta Stone unlocked the secrets of Ancient Egypt and the premonition that led to the discovery of the Sutton Hoo ship burial. Racing against time, their success will be rewarded by “Guardianship of the Museum”, but if they fail they face incarceration forever within the Museum walls.

CBBC online (www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc) will be producing a website to accompany the TV series, containing further information about the objects featured within the show.

BBC Online

The ‘A History of the World’ website is the hub of the project, drawing together all the major strands. The site will offer a unique combination of opportunities to listen, watch and take part in ‘A History of the World’, with the Radio 4 programmes available to listen to or download. Through video and a 'zoom in' facility, users will be able to examine photos of the 100 objects in intricate detail. And fascinating insights from curators and experts will be available across each object's page, to give users the historical context of each item.

As well as the British Museum’s 100 objects from the Radio 4 series, hundreds more have been contributed from over 350 museum venues across the UK, all telling a history of the world from their local perspective. Many more will join up as the project gains momentum through 2010, with these partnerships reflected across the BBC Local websites. Every day throughout 2010 a changing selection of objects, information and programmes will be available on mobile phones. CBBC and BBC Schools will offer a range of activities, lesson plans and history trails for both children and teachers.

In an exciting initiative, listeners and viewers will be encouraged to offer pictures of objects they own and explain how these objects can help tell a history of the world. The ambition is to create a unique digital museum online of objects that tell history through the eyes of museums and audiences across the UK.

BBC World Service

World Service English  

The BBC World Service daily global arts programme 'The Strand' (broadcast Monday - Saturdays) will broadcast selected edited versions of episodes from the Radio 4 series 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'.  The programmes will also include guests from the British Museum’s international partner museums and BBC World Service’s language services. The programmes will focus on the global impact of the objects featured. An omnibus edition featuring the five weekly objects, will be broadcast on the World Service on Saturdays from 1-2pm GMT in all regions from January 23rd. 

The British Museum and BBC Learning

BBC Learning will help primary schools to become involved in ‘A History of the World’ by providing exciting lesson plans, generated jointly with the British Museum, relating to 13 objects from ‘A History of the World’. These lessons, designed to engage children in learning about history through objects, will be supported with at least one printable worksheet per item. Audio, online and video resources will also be sourced for each object.  A parallel offering will focus on the local element of the project, providing re-usable templates for local museums and schools to work with. The resources will be available from January 2010.

A History of the World Culture Show Special

The programme will be scheduled to tie in with the start of the ‘A History of the World’ project in January 2010 World News presenter Mishal Husain gives BBC TWO viewers an insight to the ‘A History of the World’ project as a whole, featuring interviews with key players and a taster of what the audiences can expect on radio, online, on screen and around the UK. Contributors include: British Museum Director Neil MacGregor; Sir David Attenborough, who features in the Radio 4 series; Mark Kermode, reporting from the Isle of Man on their local objects; Scottish historian Neil Oliver, who will look at the objects from his home turf; Matthew Collings, who will speak to some of the specialists at the British Museum; and Martin Ellis, Curator of Decorative Arts in Birmingham as well as curators of museums from around the country, who will be talking about the highlights from their own local collections. And the search for the 100th object for the Radio 4 series, yet to be chosen, is discussed on the show with the Today programme's John Humphrys, playwright Stephen Poliakoff and industrial designer Sir James Dyson, to name but a few.

The Nations and English Regions

The British Museum, BBC Cymru Wales, BBC Scotland, BBC Northern Ireland and BBC English Regions have joined forces with 350 museums and institutions across the country as part of ‘A History of the World’. This will be the most ambitious nationwide museum partnership ever created. The partnerships will result in a unique range of programming and content telling the history of our nations and regions and their links with the rest of the world through the objects on display.

BBC Cymru Wales

BBC Cymru Wales has chosen 50 objects representing 5 areas across Wales on the website and will be broadcasting a series of four half-hour television programmes, ‘Wales and the History of the World’, telling the story of Wales’ influence on the world and the world’s influence on Wales. The films are presented by rugby broadcaster and journalist, Eddie Butler and are themed, covering Welsh “firsts”, trade and industry, conflict, and identity and belief.  In addition, BBC Radio Wales will be covering ‘A History of the World’ with features on the Roy Noble afternoon show.

BBC Scotland

BBC Scotland has selected 60 objects from Scottish museums representing six areas across the country. BBC Radio Scotland’s daily arts programme, ‘The Radio Café’ will feature six special editions on one or more objects selected from the museums, with discussion representing different areas of Scotland and aspects of our distinctive history and issues.  ‘The Radio Café’ will also feature a special edition on the Lewis Chessmen, one of the objects chosen for the Radio 4 series, and preview a major exhibition featuring the Chessmen from the British Museum and National Museums Scotland that will tour Scotland.

‘Past Lives’, BBC Radio Scotland's interactive history magazine programme, will have six editions from February to March featuring some of the personal objects suggested by the public and discussion of those object’s significance with museum experts.

BBC Northern Ireland

Plans are at an advanced stage for a multi-media ‘A History of the World’ experience. Radio, tv and online will deliver a host of material including a secret history of Sir Hans Sloane, the County Down man whose eccentric collecting habits led to the foundation of the British Museum.

BBC Radio Ulster’s A History of the World champion is mid-morning presenter Gerry Anderson. He’ll be leading the charge to find history behind the doors of the Irish public.

The Saturday morning show, Your Place and Mine, will unearth the history behind  other objects from around Northern Ireland.

Two radio documentaries have been commissioned.

English Regions

The 44 BBC Local websites across English Regions have partnered with museums in their area to produce a list of 10 objects each that tell the story of the area’s history. These will feature on the websites from mid-January 2010 to coincide with the launch of the BBC Radio 4 series. A series of 12 specially-commissioned half hour regional films for BBC ONE will each highlight and reflect a period of great historical change in the region - articulated through landscape, people and iconic historical objects.

BBC Local Radio and regional television will also broadcast features and interviews telling the stories behind the 10 objects and their contribution to the History of the World.  Listeners and viewers will be asked to suggest further objects and can actively participate by uploading images of their own objects that have a local or global appeal.  At the end of February 2010 it is hoped that each BBC Local website will have an additional “People’s 10 Objects” telling the history of their region and its global connections.

BBC Project manager for the Nations and English Regions, Seamus Boyd, said:  

“A truly fascinating range of objects has been chosen across the nations and English regions. Some of them may have great monetary value, others little or none, but they're priceless in how they bring to life moments from history. This initial collection is just the blueprint to which we hope viewers and listeners will add their own objects and help to create a truly unique and vibrant tapestry of the past.”

Contacts for the Nations and English Regions press teams:

BBC Cymru Wales
Jenny Walford
Communications Manager
BBC Cymru Wales
Telephone: 029 2032 2373
Email: jenny.walford@bbc.co.uk

BBC Scotland
Suzanne Vickers
BBC Scotland Press and Publicity
Telephone: 0141 422 6380
Email: suzanne.vickers@bbc.co.uk

BBC Northern Ireland
Una Carlin
Manager, Press Office
Telephone:
Email: una.carlin@bbc.co.uk

English Regions
Natasha Lee
Press and PR Officer
Telephone: 0117 974 7472
Email: natasha.lee@bbc.co.uk