By Kevin O’Sullivan
On a Friday afternoon last October, at the end of a particularly intensive week’s photographing at the National Archives in Kew, I took the opportunity of a few hours rambling around London before catching the late flight from Heathrow. Bag safely ensconced in the left luggage at St Pancras, I headed for the British Museum with the germ of an idea. For months I’d been listening to – and loving – the museum’s ambitious collaborative project with BBC Radio 4: A History of the World in 100 Objects.
I arrived by the way I always seem to manage to get to the British Museum: not by the grand steps of the front entrance, but through that innocuous back/side entrance that makes you feel as though you’ve snuck in to the heart of the building without running the gambit of the groups of school children that range from the unruly to the genuinely interested via the more common expression: I’d-rather-be-somewhere/anywhere-else. (Innocuous, of course, except for the giant stone lions outside, but why would a historian let facts get in the way of a good narrative?)
The plan, in as much as I had one, was to pick – at random – two or three objects from the sixty or so episodes still on my iPod, occupy a quiet bench and listen as the persuasive voice of Niall McGregor, the museum’s director, guided me through the detail and context of a set of coins from eight century Syria. Read More