The British Museum - Museums Association

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Conference 2024: The Joy of Museums booking open now – Book before 31 March 2024 for a 10% discount

The British Museum

The Cyrus Cylinder is a 2,600-year old object of modern importance, as a symbol of multi-culturalism, tolerance, diversity, and human rights.

The British Museum, the Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF) America and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery are organising a 2013 tour of the cylinder to five museums in the US.

The tour is high-profile and high-budget, having been underwritten by IHF America and supported with sponsorship deals and donations as well as an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

In 2010/11, the British Museum lent the cylinder to the National Museum of Iran where it was seen by over one million people. The US tour provides an opportunity for American audience to engage with this important and iconic object from the ancient world – but it also has a larger mission to spread its message of respect for diversity, tolerance and universal human rights.

The cylinder tells the story of the falling of the empire of Babylon, to Cyrus the Great, king of the Persian Empire, resulting in the creation of the first Great World Empire covering all the land that is today known as the Middle East – the first multi-cultural, multi-faith and multi-lingual state of all time.

The cylinder is often referred to as the first bill of human rights as it appears to encourage freedom of worship throughout the Persian Empire and to allow deported people to return to their homelands.

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, says objects such as the Cyrus Cylinder “are uniquely able to speak across time and space”.

The tour recognises that people from different cultures, backgrounds, and religions take pride in the Cyrus Cylinder and shares a 2,600-year-old story of tolerance.

Ahead of the tour, Alireza Rastegar, chairman of the board of trustees of IHF America, said: “The Cyrus Cylinder and its message of respect for diversity and universal human rights carries a timely message about tolerance for all of us today.”