After spending much of his life at the centre of our national museum life in London, Neil is taking to the road to discover more about the extraordinary work being done in museums outside the capital; from Stornoway to Stowmarket, and Belfast to Birmingham.

In The Museums That Make Us, he will discover the active role museums play in their communities, responding to the shifting social and cultural landscape they inhabit. Along the way, Neil will try to understand the purpose of these cherished institutions in 2022 and the challenges their directors and curators face.

In each episode Neil visits a single museum and invites its curator to choose an item from their collection which explains the museum’s role and relationship to its local audience. These objects – whether disputed or deeply loved – often represent episodes from the past which are viewed very differently today.

He’ll be visiting the great national museums of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, as well as major city institutions in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and elsewhere. The first programme will establish Neil’s approach to the subject on a visit to the gardens of Stowe in Buckinghamshire, where in the 1740s the first example of a vision of Britain outside London was established, complete with a Temple of British worthies.

Neil MacGregor, presenter of The Museums That Make Us, says: “Museums have always been telescopes trained on the past to help locate a sense of place in the present. What’s going on in our museums today is at once challenging and exciting, and it can only really be understood by visiting as many as possible and finding out how they have approached what is a vital role in providing a sense of local, regional and national identity.”

Richard Knight, Commissioner for Radio 4, says: “We’re delighted Neil MacGregor – a key figure in the world of museums and of course much loved by the Radio 4 audience – has taken on this challenge: to shine a light on our regional museums as they seek to recover after the pandemic. These are institutions which find themselves on the frontline of contemporary debates about our past. As well as guiding us towards some extraordinary collections, right across the UK, this is a chance for Neil to help us think more deeply about the role of these important and valuable places in curating our shared history.””.

It will be broadcast weekdays at 1.45pm on Radio 4 from Monday 7 March, and be available as a podcast on BBC Sounds.


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