The interpretation of history (2)

I have just been on Times Radio, a new experience for me. I thought it was going to be about issues of restitution following the minor spat in the Times between Antony Gormley, a former trustee of the British Museum, and Hartwig Fischer, its current director, who has the task of re-interpreting the collections, a mammoth task, given their scale and immobility, and the history of the institution as a vehicle of the Enlightenment and Greek Revival.

Instead, I was asked about the meeting being held tomorrow in which Oliver Dowden is apparently now going to ask museum directors to present a rounded view of the past, a softening of the purpose of the meeting as previously reported in the Sunday Telegraph. I’m in favour of a rounded view, just cautious of the suggestion that it should be more overtly celebratory. So, both Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and I agreed on a history that was complex, investigative and open about the sins of the past.


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