British Museum Friends Advisory Council

 

The British Museum Friends (originally the British Museum Society) was founded in 1969 with the aim of supporting the Museum in its work. The British Museum Friends pay an annual subscription in support of the Museum’s work and in return they receive a range of benefits.

Since 2012 the British Museum Friends has been governed by the Trustees of the British Museum (acting as the Trustees of the British Museum Friends) and assisted by an advisory council (‘the Council’).

The role of the Council is to advise on the best way of fulfilling the Charity’s aims of supporting the work of the British Museum while ensuring an excellent experience for all Members by advising on areas including, but not limited to, marketing and communications, fundraising, and compliance.

The term of appointment to the Advisory Council is four years, and members are eligible to serve up to two consecutive terms.

Minutes of the
Advisory Council

Questions?

Contact the Membership team at friends@britishmuseum.org


Current Members of Advisory Council

 

 

Clarissa Farr, Chair

I have spent a lifetime in education and was until August 2017 High Mistress of St Paul’s Girls’ School in west London. I now work as a consultant in international education, helping schools around the world create the best learning environment they can for their students. My specialisms in English Literature and Drama have led me to be aware of the power of language and to be constantly curious about human nature - about why people behave as they do. My work as a leader has made me think more deeply about human capability: what it is to be stretched and challenged, rather than overwhelmed by what lies before you.

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The British Museum is to me the most extraordinary embodiment of what it means to be human; its collections chronicle the ways in which mankind has lived, grappling with the elemental challenges of life on earth through the millennia. The objects in the museum attest to those experiences as they have been felt by ordinary people as well as those with power and status. Amongst such an array of treasures it is easy to miss the small exhibits, reminding us that history is personal as well as monumental: I especially loved the tiny carved figures in the Ice Age exhibition and the little amulets brought up from the silt of the Nile Delta in Sunken Cities.

What is truly thrilling is that The British Museum, a museum “of the world and for the world” in the words of our Director Hartwig Fischer, allows visitors to read the patterns of our past, offering an unparallelled resource as we confront the great questions of the future: how to live peaceably with one another and to share rather than compete for the world’s resources. The collection offers every visitor the possibility of a connection with those questions which is at once universal and personal. You enter the British Museum wondering what you will find; you leave it renewed and changed. That is why I became a Member and why as an educator, I hope to see the museum engaging more and more with the post millennial generation of young people upon whom that future depends.

 


David Scott, Vice Chair

A chartered accountant and banker by profession, I have a long-standing enthusiasm for and commitment to the heritage sector. After 20 years working in international corporate finance I decided to leave full-time City-based work to focus on a series of voluntary or part-time roles in things I was passionate about.

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I was first inspired by the British Museum as a schoolboy visitor to the Pompeii exhibition in the 1970s, and constantly find new artistic and architectural inspiration at the Museum. Having been a Member on and off since my student days, in 2009 I successfully applied to join the Council of the British Museum Friends. I am a particular fan of the exhibition programme and the Museum’s use of new technologies to reveal hidden secrets in ancient objects.

In 2007 my family and I took on the tenancy of an architecturally important Modern Movement house owned by the National Trust, The Homewood in Esher, Surrey. We are responsible for looking after the house, maintaining its 6-acre woodland garden, opening the house and garden to the public up to two days a week from April to October, and leading a wonderful group of National Trust volunteers who assist in the house, garden and grounds.

Since 2011 I have also served as an elected as a member of the Council of the National Trust, having served on the National Trust London and South East Advisory Board from 2004 to 2013.

 


Susie Balch

I joined the Advisory Council because the British Museum is an international treasure that inspires curiosity and learning for all generations and I want to do my part to make sure it is around forever. The Council are the eyes, ears and voice of Members who are passionate about the place and want to support the development and evolution of the Museum.

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I have spent 25 years in fundraising and alumni relations in higher education, both in the US and UK. I currently lead the Advancement team for London Business School where we are engaged in a £100 million fundraising campaign.

I hope my experience with large membership groups (alumni are the equivalent in the higher education sector) adds some value to the Museum's Membership team by helping to deliver more strategic marketing, outreach and fundraising.

My favourite piece and place in the Museum is the carillon clock and the Clocks and Watches Gallery. I have always been fascinated by the marriage of mechanical precision and beautiful, elegant design. My kids and I have spent hours in this part of the Museum fascinated by the amazing sounds coming from the incredible collection of clocks.

 


Pamela Cross

I had a professional career in international finance until 1991 when I switched to university administration and promotion overseas, before retiring in 2006. Always passionate about textiles, especially traditional techniques, I have amassed a considerable textile collection with a focus on South East Asia and south-west China. I launched a tribal textile information website in 2000 with an associated forum, aiming to provide an online resource to assist fellow enthusiasts around the world.

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In retirement I have been able to indulge my textile interests via the internet, museums and textile groups. I hope to be able to share my professional experience and personal interests for the benefit of the Museum and its Members.

I initially joined the British Museum Friends in 1989, drawn in by the ‘Caves of a Thousand Buddhas’ exhibition when planning a trip to China, including the Dunhuang caves. I maintained my Membership when I moved from London to Canterbury in 1993 wanting to continue supporting the Museum, receiving the magazine and to be kept in touch with activities – especially before the ubiquity of the internet.

The British Museum has an incredible resource of textiles and other items of material culture in its huge collection. From time to time special textiles appear on short-term display, particularly in Room 91 where the barkcloth exhibition was a stunning example after the very careful work by the Museum’s conservators. This has been followed by the huge, complex, Assamese Vrindavani Vastra textile. The excellent online research database provides user-friendly access with images for a major part of the collection. Viewings may be arranged to see selected items for individual research or group visits in the study room at Blythe House, where I have experienced several excellent visits. I really value this accessibility which has enriched my retirement.

 


Sally Dore

I have a background in economics but now write social history, sell second-hand books, and have a wide variety of volunteering and governance roles in education and the heritage sector, including with the National Trust.

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One of my earliest memories is of queuing with my brother and father to see the 1972 Tutankhamun exhibition at the British Museum. I often return to the favourite departments of my childhood such as Clocks and Watches, but one of the joys of the British Museum is that on every visit I find something fascinating that I have never seen before. As I live in Bristol, I am particularly interested in the Museum as national (and indeed international) institution and hope that I bring that non-London perspective to the Advisory Board.

 


Claudia Gorman

With a background in commercial law, I am General Counsel for a games company which offers online and mobile products to over 100 million players each month. My day-to-day work involves negotiating commercial deals, M&A, battling intellectual property infringements and getting stuck into various privacy law and corporate governance issues.

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This is a far cry from my days as a Classics student at Oxford University. Back then, I concentrated on ancient history (charmed by Herodotus and Alexander the Great) and a spot of philosophy. Loath to leave it all behind, I worked in the Education Department at the British Museum before embarking on my career in law.

Since then, I have regularly visited the British Museum, fascinated by its huge collection and its ability to inform and provide escape. I feel very lucky to have the British Museum on my doorstep, but think that the Museum does a fantastic job in opening the door to its collection not only in London, but across the UK and globally. It really is an exciting time to be involved with this incredible institution, given the opportunities afforded by social media (and even 3D printing) to extend its reach.

It is a great honour to help to serve the British Museum Membership as part of the British Museum Friends Advisory Council. I believe the work of the Council is invaluable in bringing many fresh eyes and ears to the table. The British Museum Membership is a force to be reckoned with – we are 70,000 and counting!

 


Peter Hoffer

I am currently the Head of PR and Social Media at Moonpig.com. Previously I have worked in social media consultancy roles advising brands and organisations on digital strategy.

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I first became acquainted with the British Museum as a student at the London School of Economics. I would often wander from gallery to gallery with no exact route in mind – my only aim was to happily discover and learn. When I started my professional career and earned my first pay rise, my first treat was to purchase British Museum Membership.

I joined the British Museum Council with the hopes of sharing my digital and social media experience to help the Museum engage with current Members and wider audiences. I believe the British Museum experience does not necessarily end once one leaves the front gates – it can have a long-lasting relationship with audiences across a number of communication channels.

If pressed to choose a single piece in the British Museum as my favourite (what a difficult decision!) I would select the Basse Yutz flagons. To me they balance art with practical use – playfulness and a hint of danger. There are so many unanswered questions surrounding the flagons, but that’s what makes looking at them such a joy.

 


Kyle Lewis Jordan

I am an undergraduate student at University College London reading Ancient History and Egyptology. I’ve been fascinated by Egyptology since I was six years old, and ever since I was ten I’ve wanted to one day become the next Director of the British Museum. Thus, when I first arrived in London to start my studies, it only made sense that the first place I went to was the Museum itself. To me the British Museum is *the* Museum. It is, in my mind, the best equipped to explore human history – from the days of Egypt right up to the present day – not just in terms of the evolution of our material culture, but also the evolution of our imagination and understanding of ourselves. This is why I love the Museum, and take every opportunity I can to visit.

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I am very proud and humbled, therefore, to be able to join the British Museum Friends Advisory Council. I hope that through doing so my dreams and aspirations for the Museum can positively contribute to its continuation as a world-leading institution. Then one day, when I am Director of the Museum (for that day will come!), I can look back on this experience and truly appreciate how crucial a role the Members play in making the Museum the wonderful institution that it is.

While I would say it’s impossible for me to choose a sole object in the Museum which is my ‘favourite’, if I had to choose one it would be the Gayer-Anderson cat. To me it’s a true testament to the finesse of Egyptian craftsmanship, but also embodies the longevity of the Egyptian civilisation. It is just one of the many objects housed by the Museum which demonstrates the dogmatic principles that were always at the heart of the Egyptian psyche, even after multiple conquests and subjugations from foreign powers.

 


Paul Maclean

My original training is in Archaeological Science (using scientific methods and equipment to help uncover the past). Around the turn of the millennium I had the good fortune to be part of the Museum’s Department of Conservation and Scientific Research.

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Since then I started my own company specialising in online applications, web content and community building, often with a historical focus. For me, joining the British Museum Friends felt like coming home.

Being on the British Museum Friends Advisory Council allows me to give something back to a place that I love. Having worked within and without – there is nowhere quite like it – from the size and reach of its collection to the commitment and dedication of people who work there. It is special.

The British Museum Friends are a vital part of this great institution. The support given by the Friends means new, important acquisitions can be made, more research can be undertaken (both in the field and the laboratory), and ultimately more can be presented to everyone who walks through the gates. Members help the Museum across the board.

There are many famous objects in the Museum, the Rosetta Stone, the Portland Vase, the Lewis chessmen – but my favourite is something different and not often seen: the Scanning Electron Microscope, tucked away in the scientific research labs. It is a machine capable of not only analysing what an object is made of, but also it is able to see how it was made, with the ability to magnify 100,000 times. It is a marvel of the modern age put to use in the service of the past. I would like one at home.

It’s not all work of course, in my spare time I enjoy table-top games, 3D photography (Victorian and modern) and ‘cheap seats’ opera!

 


Jean McMeakin

As a long-time Member of the Friends it is a privilege and a pleasure to serve on the Advisory Council to support the British Museum in caring for world treasures and sharing them freely with everyone, and in offering Friends an enjoyable and enriching Membership experience, helping us to feel part of the Museum community.

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When I first joined the British Museum Society in 1993 I lived in the City and worked in the film industry in Soho, so the Museum felt like my local museum. The Museum's rich collection helps us learn about our past, explore our common humanity and develop our understanding of different cultures. One of the most exciting visits was donning a hard hat to see the early stages of the Great Court work from the roof, and I still proudly point out to friends ‘our’ funded pane of glass in the canopy.

After leaving the BBC in 2012 I've had more time to pursue my other interests in arts and heritage. I am the Chair of the Trustee Board of the De Morgan Foundation, which cares for the De Morgan Collection of fine and decorative art by Arts & Crafts ceramicist William De Morgan and his renowned artist wife Evelyn De Morgan.  After taking drawing studies at my local art school, where I also have a trustee role,  I am currently studying etching, so I'm an enthusiastic visitor to the prints and drawings room.

As well as art I have an interest in ancient history and it is fascinating to explore Museum objects from places I've visited around the world.  I'm most often drawn to the British galleries, probably my favourite part of the Museum, we have many wonderful treasures of our own, such as the exquisite Sutton Hoo objects and of course the Lewis chessmen.

 


Danielle Parker

With a background in classical art and archaeology, I feel attuned to the inherent curiosity that drives the appreciation of artefacts as a gateway to uncovering remote or long lost cultures.

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Since graduating, I have worked in Marketing, PR and Business Development and my relationship with the British Museum has evolved, taking advantage of the huge diversity of resources and events that allow visitors to explore unfamiliar topics in an accessible and friendly manner.

I particularly admire the Museum's ability to use its world-class collection to generate fresh perspectives on how we understand our collective past and, in turn, question contemporary attitudes about society and culture. My favourite aspect of the Museum is how well it excels in highlighting connections. For instance, to be able to walk from the sculptures of the Parthenon to those from the rural shrine of Apollo Epikourious at Bassai within the Museum and discern similarities in themes and styles between the two is very special indeed.

I joined the Advisory Council because I would like to create a stronger dialogue between the Museum and its Members, and help the wider community to have a more active relationship with the Museum and its development, regardless of their location.

 


Yinsey Wang

I am a financial services lawyer, hobbyist creative blogger, occasional writer for various creative magazines and ultimately, an avid fan of the British Museum. I can still remember my first experience at the British Museum as a school child, learning about the incredible Rosetta Stone, which equipped us with the tools to translate hieroglyphics and understand more about the majesty and magic of Ancient Egypt.

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The fact that the Museum was free, and remains free, is one of the most wonderful things about London. Some of humanity’s greatest creations are accessible to all – and the support of the Members is crucial to ensuring this remains the case. My motivation for becoming a Member of the Museum (aside from the exciting exclusive events, entry to the fascinating seasonal exhibits and the ability to find solace in the Members’ Room): the chance to contribute to a place that inspired me and captivated my imagination (so that others can feel the same way!). I am therefore honoured and humbled to be part of the Council.

My favourite piece in the British Museum is probably the Crouching Venus – a divine, beautiful and elegant work, I have sketched it many times! It was one of the things that sparked my endless love of Ancient Greece and Roman mythology.  

 


Andrew Robinson

A fascination with Indian culture and history prompted me to join the British Museum Friends in the mid-1980s, while researching a biography of Satyajit Ray and an academic study of Rabindranath Tagore’s modernist paintings. As an editor working at Macmillan Publishers, Granada Television and The Times Higher Education Supplement—and latterly as a freelance author and journalist—I went on to write more than 25 books on subjects ranging from the history of writing/scripts to the history of science/measurement. Many involve the collections of the Museum. I am pleased to help the Friends explore, understand and publicise the collections

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Writing is among history’s greatest inventions—perhaps the greatest, since it made history possible. Without writing, there would be no permanent recording, no Rosetta Stone and no British Museum as we know it. The Museum has of course one of the world’s great collections of inscriptions, of keen interest to Friends—as I have come to appreciate while recently lecturing to them on the ‘lost’ Indus civilisation, on the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs and on the origins of writing, beginning perhaps in Ice Age caves.

Naturally, the Rosetta Stone holds a particular allure for me, as the author of two biographies of its chief decipherers: the British polymath Thomas Young (The Last Man Who Knew Everything) and the French Egyptologist Jean-François Champollion (Cracking the Egyptian Code). But as my favourite object at the Museum, I would probably choose one of the miniature Indus seals on display in the Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery. I’ve even used one as a sort of logo on my professional website. Exquisitely carved in steatite (soapstone) some four millennia ago, the seals depict animal, human and divine figures, including a puzzling ‘unicorn’, next to mysterious glyphs. Once seen, never forgotten. Indus archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler called them “little masterpieces of controlled realism, with a monumental strength in one sense out of all proportion to their size and in another entirely related to it”. The first seal to appear in print, in 1875, is in the British Museum’s collection. Yet even now, after more than a century of scholarship, the Indus glyphs remain the world’s most tantalising undeciphered script, as described in my book, Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World’s Undeciphered Scripts. Who knows? Perhaps in the future some young Friend, intrigued by the Indus seals, will help to take the decipherment further.

 


Brigid Hains

I am an environmental historian by training, with stints in public history and ecological anthropology. With my husband Paul Hains I founded Aeon, a digital magazine of ideas and culture, which covers philosophy, science, history, psychology and other fields, and I am the editorial director there. Our work shares the Museum’s mission of communicating knowledge to the widest public audience in a spirit of humane and cosmopolitan inquiry. When I was 16 I visited London and the  British Museum for the first time, struck by the difference between seeing objects in books, and encountering them, full of presence, in the ‘flesh’. Since then I have spent many happy hours in the Museum, both when visiting London and during a time living in the city. As an Australian, with a great love of, and regular visits to the Museum, I hope to represent the international friends on the Council, in the spirit of Director Hartwig Fischer’s vision of the Museum as being ‘of the world, for the world’.

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It is extremely difficult to choose a single object to embody the Museum in my mind, but for this purpose I would like to nominate the beautiful, contemporary shovelnose-shark mask from the Torres Strait artist Alick Tipoti, which can be seen in the Living and Dying Gallery. The mask is rich in traditional symbolism, with its fish, frigate birds, human heads and the shark itself. When the shark is disturbed on the seafloor it takes off, creating a cloud of dust in the water, lit up by phosphorence, which represents the creation of the Milky Way or Kaygasiw Usul. The mask has been used in contemporary dance, as performed by the artist at the Museum in 2015 to accompany the exhibition Indigenous Australia. Apart from its sheer beauty and delight in the natural world, the mask embodies something important about the Museum’s collections and their living importance to ongoing cultural creativity. Tipoti’s work was inspired by an exquisite, haunting shovel-nose shark mask collected for the Museum in the 1880s, also from the Torres Strait. Tipoti has refashioned the iconography and materials of the original turtle-shall mask in contemporary form, demonstrating both the vitality of culture, and the service that a great, global Museum can provide to the keepers of culture as they renew and rethink the meaning of such deeply symbolic objects. Apart from its specific cultural significance, to me the mask is a symbol of the interdependent relationship between culture, nature and cosmos – an ecological ethic which makes this an especially charged object, as are so many other objects in the collections.

 


Fumitaka Eshima

I am a lawyer by profession and work for an international bank.  While based in Tokyo, I am a frequent visitor to the UK professionally and personally.  My link with the country started in 1993, when I arrived in the UK to read law as a graduate student.  The UK has since continued to be an integral part of my interests and curiosity.

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The British Museum is at the centre of many fond memories that I have had of the UK over the years.  During many visits to the Museum, I saw and felt a history of the world walking through the Rooms with numerous objects on display from all over the world.  While I was a graduate student, I was admitted to the Round Reading Room and felt privileged to be a reader under the most beautiful dome.  I also sometimes dropped in at the Museum just to enjoy the building with its classical architectural glory.  It was my desire to return something to this great institution that prompted me to become a Member.

If I am asked to name just one among my favourites at the Museum, it would be the Franks Casket – the small whale-bone box made in Anglo-Saxon times.  As well as its intricate carvings featuring Roman, Christian and Germanic legends, I am fascinated with the mysterious way in which the box had survived for more than one thousand years until its eventual discovery in 19th Century France. 

However great its collections may be, a museum cannot be great on its own.  Rather, it becomes great when people experience and regard it as such.  The Advisory Council plays a vital role in this regard, acting as a bridge between the British Museum and its friends.  It is my privilege to be part of the Council and to serve the Membership in support of this world-class museum.