Neil MacGregor at the MA Conference

MacGregor: museums can be lending libraries

Rebecca Atkinson, 05.10.2010
BM director calls for collections to be seen as one at a national and international level
Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum (BM), has called for national museums to be seen as “lending libraries” from which partner museums can borrow objects to use as they wish.

Speaking at the Museums Association conference, MacGregor discussed the History of the World in 100 Objects collaboration between the BM, the BBC and regional museums.

He described the potential of the BM to be “the national museum of Stornaway to Truro”, and called for museums and collections to be seen as one on a national and international level.

He also revealed that four national museums – Ulster Museum, Nation Museum Scotland, National Museum Wales and the BM – are investigating ways to share their collections across the country.

“Collections no longer need to stay in one place,” MacGregor said. “Museums can be lending libraries, objects can move and can be seen differently and mean very different things to different places.”

Referring to loans such as an Egyptian mummified cat which was lent to Ely Museum by the BM and the York Helmet, lent by York Museum to the BM, MacGregor said different collections and objects from across the UK and even internationally could function as one collection.

He also highlighted the recent example of the Cyrus Cylinder being loaned by the BM to Iran and said it was possible to share resources and share collections, skills and knowledge to create one common world history.

Read more about the British Museum’s partnership scheme