January 12, 2008

The Chairman of World Collections

Posted at 2:10 pm in British Museum

More coverage of the new role given to British Museum director Neil MacGregor by the UK Government. At the end of the article it talks about “developing links on a two way basis”, perhaps something the British Museum ought to put more thought into when denying restitution or long term loan requests – they can often end up benefiting both parties easily.

The Art Newspaper

British Museum director becomes global ambassador
Martin Bailey | 10.1.08 | Issue 187

LONDON. The UK government has appointed British Museum director Neil MacGregor “Chairman of World Collections”, a new diplomatic post which will promote six national collections internationally and encourage links between these British institutions and the rest of the world, particularly Asia and Africa. In addition to the British Museum, the other collections which are part of the scheme are those of Tate, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Library, the Natural History Museum and Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.

Mr MacGregor will effectively be the UK’s “cultural ambassador”. As Culture Secretary James Purnell explained: “Our museum and gallery collections are world renowned. It is right that we share all this where and when we can. Art can often reach places where diplomacy cannot.”

Mr Purnell added that “there is quite simply no one better than Neil to make this happen.” Since taking over at the British Museum in 2002, he has put enormous energy and skill into cultivating international links.

The project is to be backed with £3m of government money (£1m per annum between 2008/09 and 2010/11). The Department for Culture, Media and Sport says that Mr MacGregor will work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the British Council and the BBC World Service.

During the past few years the UK’s world-class collections have been active in expanding their international links. The British Museum has concentrated on China, Iraq, Iran, Sudan and Ghana. The V&A has focused particularly on China, as well as India and the Islamic world. Tate is developing relations with Latin America and the Middle East.

The plan now is to develop these links, on a two-way basis, with staff exchanges, sharing of expertise and conservation technology, along with loans of works.

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