On BBC iplayer you can access The History of the World in 100 Objects. They are all objects in the British Museum. Neil Mc Greggor was the BM’s director and a friend and colleague of his, Dr Christopher Brown oversaw the rebuilding of the world’s first public museum The Ashmolean (Oxford). It was founded in 1683 with an INTERNATIONAL collection. It included some iconic British objects like the death mask of Oliver Cromwell and Guy Fawkes’ lamp but three quarters were not British. This tells you something significant about Britain and our culture and why there are good collections of objects from everywhere in the world in our museums. Some were collected in not ideal ways but most were bought legally and have been well researched and preserved. Chinese collectors are avidly trying to buy some back because so many precious things from China’s past were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution – as I describe in Brushstrokes in Time.
For The Oxford Times magazine I devised a series called ‘Every Antique Tells a Story’. I kicked off the series in 2006 with the story of a pair of damaged soft paste vases that I bought in 1985. They were found under straw in a farmer’s barn and I researched the mystery behind them. Christopher Brown liked my series and maybe told his friend Neil about it?
In Sculpting the Elephant as well as being honest about the cruelties of the Raj, I also celebrate some remarkable people who represent the best of British culture. Some of their story is in this feature I wrote for the Madras Courier.
The cover image of the Diamond Throne built by Ashoka to mark the spot where the Buddha reached enlightenment was taken by an Englishman – Alexander Cunningham dedicated his life to uncovering ancient Indian history .The pic in the feature was taken by me and also has a significant story to tell.
Every Antique Tells a Story! This is my ‘Well Travelled Chest of Drawers’ . It really did go to India and back and plays a significant role in linking the contemporary and historical stories in Sculpting the Elephant .