The fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing. Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, is a hedgehog. The one big thing he knows is what his museum is for: “What the collection is about is truth, and one way to the truth is comparison; and comparison is an enormous weapon in the struggle towards truth. That holds across everything. A comparative collection, as opposed to a national collection, offers access to different kinds of truth.”
He has just laid out his big hedgehog idea in an important anniversary lecture. It is a text by which future museum policy, here and elsewhere, will be defined. It represents a new, deeper, global statement of what the hedgehog knows. He wants to turn the BM into “the private collection of every citizen in the world”.
There are national museums all over the world, telling local stories, but there are only a handful of museums in which national cultures can be compared. Of these, the BM is the most comprehensive and, thanks to Hedgehog MacGregor (now in the seventh year of his reign), the most ambitious. He wants to create a worldwide network of curators trained to know the contents of the BM.
Thanks to Kat for pointing out that MacGregor says that there are plans for an exhibition focusing on on the journey of the soul in the Egyptian afterlife, at some point in the future.
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