The diary of a national museum director - Museums Association

The diary of a national museum director

Part Four
Museums Association
Bullingdon called me a week or so ago from DCMS. “Good news,” he said, “Don’t ever say I don’t look after you. I’ve wangled you an invitation to No 10 for next Saturday.”

“What on earth happens there on a Saturday?” I asked. “I’ll tell you what happens,” he said. “The PM wants you to tutor his children in British history.”

I made my feelings pretty clear, I can tell you. “Do you mean you’re asking me to prostitute my professional integrity?’ I asked. “You can call it prostitution if you like,” he said, “but I call it a smart political move. Why do you think so many national museum directors end up with knighthoods? It’s certainly not for service to the public.

“And a piece of advice,” he added, “don’t teach them about the bad stuff; famine in Ireland and so on. If you stick to the good bits – the Spanish Armada, Guy Fawkes, the Boer war, Churchill and Thatcher – you should be fine.”

Finding a suitable textbook wasn’t easy, but yesterday I turned up at the gates of No 10 with several copies of the Big Boy’s Book of Empire. I was met at the door by the PM himself! “So good of you to come,” he said as he showed me in. “Samantha and I are popping out for a few hours, Nick’s in charge and he’s got the kettle on.”

As I went through to the kitchen, blow me, if I didn’t see my fellow director, Sir M, on his hands and knees on the carpet teaching Cameron junior how to care for his pet rabbit Fluffy.

And looking out of the window, who was in the garden but Sir N, making what looked to be a installation out of cereal packets and a white cardboard box. I was glad to see them both. It’s reassuring that I’m not prostituting myself after all.

Illustration: Paul Bommer/Higginsonhurst

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