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The Museum -

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(generated from captions) British Museum don't stand still. 'The historic collections of the strive to add new objects Every year, museum curators in their care.' to the millions already by hook or by crook We're going to acquire the work if I've got anything to do with it. is in crisis. 'But funding for acquisitions for buying new artefacts The budget set aside a million pounds a year in the 1980s has decreased from around to just ?100,000 today.' small amount of money This is, frankly, a ludicrously for an institution of that stature. how do they decide 'With dwindling resources, what artefacts to purchase? the extra money from? Where do you get shopping for the nation?' And why is it important to carry on gaps in the history of the past, It's not just a question of filling we've also got to think, for future generations?" "What should be preserved now THEME MUSIC has in his pocket 'Curator Gareth Williams most exciting new objects. one of the British Museum's in the famous reading room He's gathered the world's art press to unveil this major acquisition.' This is it. as you can see. Quite...quite a small object,

'It's a rare Anglo-Saxon gold coin.' It's tremendously important. British coin finds, It's one of the most important really, of the last century. Anglo-Saxon gold coin Certainly it's the first It's a very significant find. found in more than 50 years. near Bedford six years ago, 'Discovered by a metal detectorist of Coenwulf, King of Mercia, the coin is in the name

the beginning of the ninth century. who ruled southern England at

it was worth a month's wages. At the time, nearly ?358,000.' Now, it's just cost the museum freshly minted, and you can see It was dropped when it was very

clear, crisp condition. it's in extraordinarily that whoever dropped this I think it's fair to say would have been pretty fed up. in width, 'Although only two centimetres British coins ever bought. it's one of the most expensive contribute 15% to the purchase. But the museum itself could only including a large grant All the rest came from donations, Memorial Fund.' from the National Heritage As other costs have risen, has dwindled. the money left for acquisitions So we now depend very heavily on other people to help us - on The Art Fund. on friends, on the Lottery Fund,

most of our big acquisitions. And that is really, now, how we make museums of the world, 'Although it's one of the great when it comes to buying power, the poor relation. the BM is very much The Metropolitan Museum in New York on acquisitions. spends around $40 million each year the British Museum Even with grants and donations, can only muster around ?700,000. Down the road in South Kensington biggest donors - The Art Fund. is one of the British Museum's the purchase of the Coenwulf coin.' They've given ?60,000 towards is being put on us More and more pressure as a voluntary charity by the lamentable failure to plug the gaps that are caused to recognise the need of the government programs adequately. to fund museum acquisition 'The Art Fund has just been asked major acquisition. to help the BM with its next Chris Spring, In a Bloomsbury art gallery, is setting it up. curator of the Africa collection, from the ancient past. But this isn't an artefact It's modern installation art. artist Romuald Hazoume, It's the creation of West African which refers to a port in Benin and the title is La Bouche Du Roi, to the Americas. from where slaves were transported because it takes, It's a remarkable work as its formal basis, the Brookes, the famous print of the slave ship, appeared in all sorts of popular art which is very well known and has and so on. and Bob Marley record covers So people know about that print.

which is in the museum's collection, 'The Brookes print, is recreated in the work, are replaced in the installation but the slaves in the print of petrol containers. with the cut-off tops in a way that emphasises These are laid out their resemblance to human faces, and other personal objects. and they're individualised with beads the black market oil trade, The petrol containers also refer to of economic oppression.' which Romuald sees as a modern form

where we are going, Yesterday we didn't know but we know where we are from. where we're going, And today we still don't know

we are from, really. but we've forgotten where an enormously important acquisition La Bouche Du Roi would be and for the British people. for the British Museum he'll need to find a total 'If Chris is to fulfil his dream of ?100,000 to buy the piece. 20,000 towards it. The BM Friends has already given a pot of last resort - ?30,000 has come from from commercial activities. a fund made up of the profits the remaining 50,000. He needs the Art Fund to make up best known for its ancient artefacts, But why is the British Museum, on a piece of modern art?' spending ?100,000 is to collect works of art from now What the museum tries to do of a particular moment, that are also documents at a particular time. a way of thinking is already on display 'One famous example in the museum's Africa gallery - composed entirely of weapons The Tree Of Life, a sculpture 16-year-long civil war.' from Mozambique's the Bouche Du Roi is, I think, Like The Tree Of Life behind, work of art, not only a very powerful interesting document but it is an extraordinarily think about the slave trade. about how West Africans now curator Katie Eagleton 'Upstairs in Coins and Medals, of modern history. has acquired her own piece of the late Christopher Ironside. It's the personal archive not be familiar, Though his name might everybody knows his work who designed the coins because he was the man we all carry around in our pockets.' page in his note book And I've just found this amazing which has sketches for what look pretty much

like the set that got used. And I wonder if this was him having the first idea of... ..that you might put the Prince Of Wales's feathers on the 2p and the portcullis on the 1p. 'Together with the familiar images are the hundreds of designs that never made it.

Alongside an early version of the 5p is a 2p that never was.' This is a set of 20th-century British-themed coin designs. So there's a gyroscope here, and oak leaves. And you can see, here's Britannia, who of course turned up on the 50p in the end, but she's here on the 20p. The archive also contains the plaster casts that were made so the Royal Mint Committee would get a 3-D impression of the designs. This is the lion, there, the ten pence. It's always amazing, the detail you almost don't see on a 10p.

Especially after it's been in circulation a while, it's all got sort of rubbed down... But on this plaster cast, you can see all the hair under his legs, and on his tail. 'And it's a very timely acquisition. In 2008, the Royal Mint is due to phase out Ironside's coins. With ?40,000 from the BM Friends and the Commercial Fund, Katie has ensured that his designs will last forever. Some acquisitions don't cost a penny.' This is extremely heavy, but we're used to that here. 'Curator of the Modern collections, Judy Rudoe, has just received a freebie.' So we've just been given this spectacular set of 12 porcelain plates, made at the Lomonosov porcelain factory in St Petersburg, which is Russia's great ceramic factory. 'The ceramic factory was commissioned by a Russian energy company to produce the plates.' And these have been made new at the end of last year to document the history of electricity and other forms of power in Russia and the Soviet Union from the 1880s right up to the present day. So they are a fantastic historic record. This plate commemorates the introduction of electrical equipment in the Winter Palace.

Then this one is launch of the first trams in Moscow. What else do we have? This one is the first metro in Moscow. 'For Judy, the new plates have a special significance. The museum already owns another set of Russian plates made in the same factory but dating from the 1920s. These plates were made to promote the communist slogans of Lenin's new republic.' We're going to have this one... ..which is tremendous. That's a worker, in red, trampling underfoot the word 'kapital'. So that's the victory of the workers over the old capitalist order. Again you have here the victory. The slogan reads, "There will be no end to the rule of the workers and the peasants." And you've got the emblems of the new Soviet state, the hammer and the sickle, and the word 'commune'.

'The 1920s plates were propaganda for the revolution. Now the capitalists of modern Russia are using exactly the same form to celebrate the history of the energy industry they now own.' It throws our existing collections into a totally... ..it puts them into a totally new light. And, well, that's the point about making acquisitions. You're always looking for something that adds to existing knowledge, that shows your existing collections in new ways, and that tells a whole variety of stories. Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you. 'A delegation from the Russian energy company arrive with their press corps in tow.' It was happy to...to visit at the right time the British Museum, and to see the propaganda porcelain in your collection.

It was the inspiration and that was...

..that was the start... That was the start of it.

But that makes it even more exciting for us, that it was your visit to our collection and seeing our plates that made you decide to do this. It's very symbolic... That makes it absolutely wonderful. 'Like most curators, Judy is keen to get her new acquisition out on display as soon as possible.' What's so interesting is that we can connect them with objects in different parts of the museum. For example, in the medals collection, the Coins and Medals, I know that they have wonderful French Art Deco medals, celebrating developments in electricity in France in the 1920s. So I think there are all sorts of comparisons we can make and many different stories we can tell with these. 'Philip Attwood, curator of medals, is setting off to do a bit of shopping. He's on his way to Rotterdam in Holland for a medals fair, where he hopes to make some new acquisitions. But he has limited cash. Just ?5,000 is the annual budget for modern medal acquisitions. Once he's in Rotterdam, it's onto another boat. The medals fair is being held aboard a pleasure launch.' Some of the medals that will be at the fair this afternoon are only produced in very small numbers, so this represents an opportunity to buy them at reasonable prices. In the future, a lot of them won't be available, or if they are, they'll be very expensive. 'But these medals have nothing to do with sporting achievement or acts of gallantry on the battlefield. They belong to a wider tradition of the medal as a work of art

that stretches from the Italian Renaissance to the present day. Philip's eye is caught by this artist's modern take on the figurative style of the ancient Etruscans.' The museum, as you know, has such important Etruscan collections. So to see an artist in the 21st century responding to that ancient culture is an interesting thing, yeah. 'Purchase number one - a snip at ?200.

Philip is always on the lookout for new work by artists already represented in the BM collection.' It's a medal originally commissioned to commemorate the opening of a theatre, and on the one side we see the figure peering through the curtains, and then you turn it round and you see the back of the same figure, but with a mask slung over his back. So again, you get a portrait or a head on this side of the medal. 'Purchase number two, ?200. A commemorative medal by Dutch artist Theo van der Vathorst. OK, well, thank you. Thank you. Oh, right. 'Some artists are pushing the boundaries of the medallic form to its limit.' And they're wax, modelled on the backs of mirrors? Yeah. 'Unconventional though they are, they're based on a series of 18th-century wax moulds of medals already in the BM collection.' I think it would be nice to have one of these because it is so much a sort of modern, a contemporary equivalent, of those 18th-century waxes. 'A knock-down price of ?400 for a wax and mirror medal by Felicity Powell. Phillip is also keeping his eye out for medals to be displayed with Judy's Russian plates.' Oh, but - oh, but that! Now that is nice, isn't it? This is a medal commemorating the electrification of the railway from Paris to Leon in 1952. "The triumph of rail and human progress." But I've got six of them, and they're all to do with the electrification of SNCF network. Oh, really? All by different artists. Oh, really? This could well be something that would go very well in a display with the Russian ceramics. 'Purchase number four, six medals commemorating the electrification of the French railways - ?220 the lot.' Oh, yes, yes. 'By the end of the afternoon, Philip has acquired 19 new items for the museum. Grand total, ?2,000. The installation La Bouche Du Roi is ready for The Art Fund to visit. The finishing touches are in place. Part of the installation is a film about the black-market oil trade in Benin. Beneath the masks, loud speakers play the sounds of the slave ship.' AFRICAN MUSIC 'The piece will cost ?100,000, and the British Museum wants The Art Fund to contribute half. But there are a number of things The Art Fund will have to consider before they agree to fund it.' The most important thing is its artistic quality, and that's about the impact it makes and the impression it has on you. But the other things we'll be thinking about, I think in connection with this one in particular, given its size and scale is, what are the museum's plans for it? Chris, tell me how you came across it and what you're wanting to achieve for the BM by buying it. 'The BM hopes to exhibit the work to mark the bicentennial of the abolition of the slave trade, before sending it on tour around the UK. The Art Fund is concerned that after that, the piece might just end up in storage. Chris is having to fight a difficult corner.' One of the things I think our trustees are liable to ask is,

"That's all very well to go on tour, but at some point, it's got to come back to the museum and find a home, and where exactly is that... I don't know... ..cos it can't be the Special Exhibition Centre forever.

That's true. But in a sense this is a ship that's going to go on sailing. It's got to go on moving, and we, and I personally, am going to bend over backwards... Yeah. ..to make sure that this ship and all that it says just keeps on sailing.

But do you see it ever coming back to the museum and having a permanent gallery? Permanent gallery? Well, that's something we could be working on whilst it's on tour.

Yeah. 'The viewing also gives museum conservators an opportunity to assess the condition of the piece. Some of the materials in the installation, including the plastic masks, will eventually deteriorate. The artist won't always be around to consult on repairs.' I know this is a nasty question to ask you, but what about when you die?

What do we do then when we can no longer talk to you about it, cos as you know, in the museum we have things which are hundreds, thousands of years old, and we need to have some... Yes, yes. ..some idea for the future of how you think about it 100 years from now. And today people restore the work for Picasso, for Van Gogh, for Monet. 200 years ago. Everything can be changed. The restorer, they put a new colour, they put a new thing. Yeah, you're exactly right. Yes. We've restored the works of Picasso, we've restored the works of artists from previous times, but sometimes we think, "It would be really useful if we'd been able to talk to them about what they wanted," and I think the disappointment... Wait till you meet them. Well, we can't now. But we can take this opportunity to talk to you about this, and to try and record your thoughts, your wishes. 'And what will the trustees from The Art Fund make of the piece when they meet to decide whether to fund it?' It's very difficult to say, and it's often very difficult to say with contemporary works. It's much easier, if you like, if you've got a Titian and you know how important a Titian or a Rembrandt it is,

and you know it's going to be on a wall forever, that's a very easy thing to do. Here, we're in a more difficult but, in a way, more interesting area, which is, how do we deal with the contemporary, and how does that talk back to the old collection that the BM has? And I think that's a really interesting area to get into. But I couldn't say how the discussion will go. 'The next day, the trustees meet at The Art Fund in South Kensington.

The installation isn't the only work they'll be considering. It'll be up against some stiff competition.' There's some great paintings, there's some great photographs, there's some magnificent prehistoric antiquities, there's at least one Old Master painting. So we're going to have our hands full, and there'll doubtless be some quite difficult decisions. Hi, how are you? Good, thank you. One of the great things about the operation of our board is that its delightfully unpredictable. I mean, everybody has strong opinions. These are people who really know their stuff. But of course you cannot predict with absolute accuracy how people are going to react to anything,

and a work like La Bouche Du Roi is obviously unfamiliar. I mean, he's not an artist whose work is well known in this country.

Hello, hello. Hello. 'Back at the museum in Coins and Medals, curator Katie Eagleton has some visitors. It's the widow and family of coin designer Christopher Ironside.'

..and they're the monsters. We're not monsters! Hello. (LAUGHS) This is Guy and Ellie and Daisy and Adam. Hello, everybody. Sometimes when we've made a really major acquisition, it is part of the job to meet the donor or the person we've bought something off and show them around and that kind of thing. But I really enjoy meeting people so that's quite fun really. Look at them. Look at that! So here they all are in their new storage. That's actually quite a big coin there. That's a 2p, that's a 20p. Which one's that? 1p. And? ?2. As with every acquisition the museum makes, each plaster cast, every drawing has to be individually catalogued and numbered before it's put on display. With just your cataloguing, it really does it justice. Is that coin 10p? These were all in cigar boxes. It's absolutely incredible, and I feel now his work is safe and it's being cared for. I was so nerved-racked having it at home, particularly with the grandchildren in and out, and it's wonderful. And I feel that it's part of the history of this country. You see that? And then if we turn a few pages, there's all sorts of things in here. It's funny seeing his handwriting. I know. Isn't it strange? It's the sort of thing I associate with shopping lists and things and yet it's here. In archival sleeves. Yes. I can't imagine how he'd feel. I mean, he always felt that success was all right, but by the end of the week it would all be forgotten. I think he would be absolutely gobsmacked, to think he ended up in the British Museum. Yes, he really would. 'Chris Spring arrives for work. Today he'll be receiving the news on whether The Art Fund will give the museum the ?50,000 it needs to purchase La Bouche Du Roi.' It's the big day, and it couldn't be a better day for it. Absolutely beautiful. So one way or the other we should know by 10 o'clock, I guess, hoping for the best.

"How much are you paying for your mortgage? Too much? Stop!" Delete. I'm keeping myself calm by deleting spam at the moment. (LAUGHS) Waiting for the phone call. Seriously, I'm sort of relieved that this day has come because, as I say we will know one way or the other, and then at least we'll know what we need to do next. If they don't make any kind of grant then, you know, it's...a big blow. If they go half way then that will be a sort of curate's egg, you know, and it would be great, absolutely great. You'll see me hit the roof... (LAUGHS) ..if we get the whole grant, but, you know, whatever happens, its going to be a relief in many ways, and we'll know what we're up against, what we need to do next.

PHONE RINGS Hello? Hello. Andrew, hi, good morning. I'm OK, I think. Yeah. (LAUGHS) Yes? Fantastic. Many thanks, Andrew. Yep, all the best. Bye.

OK, we've got 30,000, so I think that wasn't as much as we were hoping for, but we know now where we are and what we have to do, so...it's a relief. 'Relief, maybe. But the BM is now ?20,000 short of the amount it needs to purchase the installation. Whether they buy it or not will ultimately depend

on the decision of director Neil McGregor. He could dig deeper into the Commercial Fund, but it's not just for use on acquisitions, and La Bouche Du Roi has already had its fair share. Making up the shortfall on this one purchase

would mean emptying the fund completely.

While the fate of the installation hangs in the balance, four of the BM's recent acquisitions are finally being put out on public display. The ?358,000 Coenwulf coin is shown with six other Anglo-Saxon gold coins already in the BM collections.'

It's a fair few quidsworth. 'Two of the plaster casts from the Ironside archive are unveiled in the Money Gallery.' It's really important to get things on display quickly, because we're really excited about this archive and we want people to see it. 'Judy's set of Russian plates finds a home in the 20th Century Gallery, together with Philip's new medals acquired in Rotterdam, and others celebrating the coming of electricity to Europe.

Over in his office, Neil McGregor has made a decision on La Bouche Du Roi.' So...I can now sign the agreement. 'He's decided to use almost every last penny in the Museum's Commercial Fund for this financial year to make up the ?20,000 shortfall.'

Good, now we can get it sent from Paris. One of the things that becomes clear when you look at how we acquired the Bouche Du Roi is how difficult it is for the British Museum, and indeed other museums in this country, to acquire important objects. But we do have to, if the museum is going to go on doing what it has to do, which is explore the past, document the present, and engage the public.

We struggle to make the kind of acquisitions we should be making to ensure that what we hand on

to the next generation is a collection enriched, like the way we received a collection enriched by the previous generation. It's great. What a wonderful relief. Now I can begin the wonderful process of registration of each of the 400 elements of the whole thing. I know it's going to have a great impact, I'm just looking forward to people's reactions, because it's got a huge amount to say.

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