British Museum investigates Germany’s identity

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by Björn Schöpe

October 16, 2014 – On October 16, 2014 the British Museum in London is going to open its new exhibition ‘Germany: memories of a nation’. Objects from 600 years of German history bring the neighbouring country nearer to the visitors of the display. This project aims not only at exploring Germany’s past but also its identity of today, the self-image of a country in the light of its history.

Neil Mac Gregor, director of the British Museum, has created a 30-part radio series in cooperation with BBC Radio 4. Even outside of the United Kingdom the Scottish art historian has become well known thanks to his extremely popular radio series ‘The History of the World in 100 Objects’ released later as a book. Next, Mr MacGregor’s project ‘Shakespeare’s Restless World’ had the same layout presenting objects from the British Museum to give the listeners a better understanding of Shakespeare’s time. Both series not only were high quality products but they established a completely new kind of feature which, in the meantime, has been followed as model all over the world.

In his current project Neil MacGregor faces German history and has chosen thirty places of memorance or particularly intriguing objects. Since September 29 he has been presenting them to the British audience in the radio. This is a very good news for two reasons. For one thing, because apparently Germany’s history is not very well known in the UK. At least Paul Kobrak, co-producer of the BBC series, mentioned this opinion. And then notably German listeners may benefit from this series since a view from the outside is often refreshing and ‘offbeat’.

So we, the Germans, can be curious what we will learn about ourselves when looking at us through the glasses of Neil MacGregor. The range of topics and objects he discusses during the search for Germany’s identity is truly admirable: from the Brandenburg Gate to the crown of the Holy Roman Empire and from Luther’s bible to a manhole cover in St Petersburg dating back to WWII. And for all those of you who cannot travel to London: The podcast episodes are again among the iTunes top charts! And we can certainly expect a printed book, an audiobook and translations into other languages as well.

For more information on the exhibition go to the website of the British Museum.

This is the website of the BBC Radio 4 programme.

And here co-producer Paul Kobrak shares his personal impressions with us and gives interesting behind-the-scenes information.