Revealing the 100th object
======================= UPDATE - 11.32AM 14.10.2010 ========================
Watch a video of Neil MacGregor unveiling the 100th object in the British Museum and live on the Today programme.
======================= UPDATE - 07.45AM 14.10.2010 ========================
The 100th object is the solar-powered lamp and charger.
It's an object that can bring electricity those who have never had it before, and may point the way towards a more sustainable source of power for all of us in the future.
The British Museum is revealing their 100th object at 7:45am on this morning’s Today programme. We’ve been looking at the five contenders this week but the final choice is still a mystery. All we know is that it’s “an object that tells the story of the ingenuity and the challenges that shape humanity in the 21st century.”
Looking at the five contenders, which of them best fits that description? You can argue that they all show some degree of ingenuity, though in the case of the pestle and mortar it’s the pretty basic kind of hitting rocks together, so I’m not sure that the ingenuity part is going to help us much.
I feel like it’s the ‘challenges of the 21st century’ that is going to be key to the final choice, so what challenges do each of these objects help define?
The football shirt has attracted a lot of discussion from football fans about whether it should have been a British footballer, such as Ryan Giggs or Steven Gerrard, but the 21st century challenge that it describes is the one of a globalised economy. This is an English football shirt for an Ivory Coast footballer made by a German sportswear company in China. That is a lot of nations with an investment in one shirt.
On the other hand, the pestle and mortar can also tell a story about globalisation. It tells us how it’s more than just goods and currencies that move between countries in a global economy; cultures and traditions travel too.
Then there’s the mobile phone, which shows how the large parts of the world currently left out of globalisation might be given access to the instant communication and spread of knowledge that the global market relies on.
Meanwhile, I think the solar-powered lamp and the Antarctic clothing both represent a different challenge of the 21st century: climate change.
The Antarctic clothing is needed by the scientists who are taking the climate measurements that may be driving the political and economic landscape by the end of the century.
But perhaps the solar-powered lamp and charger shows a route forward with technology that can bring us electricity from more sustainable, less polluting sources.
As a comment on the blog pointed out, the solar lamp also highlights how our entire modern infrastructure is built around electrical power.
From manufacturing plants, to computer design, to mobile communication, to a simple light for reading; without electricity there is no modern world. For that reason, from the contenders I would pick the solar-powered lamp as the 100th object.
But I also know that ‘global trade’ has been one of the key themes of A History of the World in 100 Objects, so I have a feeling that the final object might be the mobile phone. As David said on the blog on Saturday:
Now fishermen in Kerala, India, can use mobiles to check out where the best prices might be paid for their catch; farmers in Tanzania can sign-up to a text-messaging service that’ll keep them updated on the weather forecast, and small businesses across Africa can transfer their money through the air.
The mobile phone has also been the most popular choice by you in the suggestions for your 100th object, so maybe there is a nice synchronicity going on.
The announcement is around 7:45am and I’ll be there to see what Neil MacGregor reveals as the 100th object in our series. I’ll let you know as soon as that sheet comes off the display box.
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