Like most of you, I too set the usual lot of ineffectual newyear goals at the start of the year. Lose weight, go the gym more often, call folks more, surf less internet and so on. And come December you look back and let of a deep disappointed sigh at how little you achieved over the wasted opportunity that was the passing year.
I have a deviant story for a change. The story has 6 elements.
Part 1 : There is a building
I moved to London in the summer of 2013. This great city is home to many great institutions and one of the most venerated here is the British Museum. The Museum is dedicated to human history and culture. Its permanent collection, numbering some 8 million works, is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence and originates from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. Punchline : Entry is Free. once can come and go as many time as one pleases. Anytime.
Part 2 : There is a media organization.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a UK-based international public-service broadcaster headquartered at Broadcasting House in London, about 15 minutes of brisk walking away from the Museum . It is the world’s oldest national broadcasting organisation and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees, with about 23,000 staff. Its work is funded principally by an annual television licence fee which is charged to all British households, companies, and organisations using any type of equipment to receive live television broadcasts.
Part 3 : There is a podcast series.
A History of the World in 100 Objects was a joint project of BBC Radio 4 and the British Museum, comprising a 100-part radio series written and presented by British Museum director Neil MacGregor. In 15-minute presentations broadcast on weekdays on Radio 4, MacGregor, voice like rich butter and chocolate mixed, used objects of ancient art, industry, technology and arms, all of which are in the British Museum’s collections, as an introduction to parts of human history. The series, four years in planning, began in January 2010 and was broadcast over 20 weeks.
Part 4 : There is a back story.
CBSE/Indian Schooling does a good job of conditioning its victims (students) to eventually hating History as a subject and it took me years to nullify this formidable pavlovian reflex. Now it is one of my favourite subjects to read about. But as many of you know, reading ABOUT a historical subject/object and seeing it brings forth very different responses and the latter, being more visceral, feels that much more impactful. Like looking at a postcard of a place and BEING in that place.
Part 5 : There is an idea.
Early on in 2014 I had this idea. I was going to visit the British Museum over the course of the full year and seek out all of these 100 objects at the museum, look at it, and while standing in front of the object, listen to the 15 odd minute podcast about that particular object. I calculated that the 25 odd hours of listening to the 100 episodes would need about 20 odd visits to the museum over 2014, seeing maybe 4 to 5 objects over the course of a visit. And why not do it! What a perfect way to learn about the HISTORY OF THE WORLD!
Part 6 : There is an ending.
And so yesterday I finished with visiting the museum for the nth time and seeing the 100th object and listening to the 100th podcast. And it has been one of the most gratifying yearly goals I have ever undertaken and successfully completed. It makes you realise just how so very rich, fascinating and absorbing History really is outisde of school curriculum.
I felt that especially powerfully when you are standing in front of the status of Ramesses II.
The imminent arrival of the head in England in 1818 inspired the poet Shelley to write that famous ode to Ozymandias:
… My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’
Good News : If you too want to enjoy this fantastic BBC podcast series but don’t want to buy the expensive ticket to London yet, below are the key links to access the free podcast series so you too can learn about A History of the World in 100 Objects sitting in your car or couch. I can guarantee you it is worth the investment in time.