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The hundredth object approaches

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Tim Davie Tim Davie | 16:33 PM, Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Two of the suggestions sent in by listeners for the 100th object in BBC Radio 4's A History of the World in 100 Objects.

Without doubt, my highlight of the week will be going to the British Museum on Thursday as we reveal the last object in our series A History of the World in 100 Objects. The Radio 4 series has been a centrepiece of our radio programming over the last year and it is destined to be remembered as one of BBC Radio's landmark pieces of broadcasting.

Initially, the idea of a world history brought alive through objects described on radio appeared too demanding for some. However, the use of objects as the starting point for important stories that draw in broader themes while remaining, by their very nature, personal, has been uniquely powerful. As someone who completed history A-Level with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the causes of World War Two but with little or no sense of global or early history, the series has been a revelation.

Thanks to the quality of production including masterful presentation by Neil MacGregor, the series, which has never shied away from more demanding detail and themes, has caught the public's imagination. We have seen an amazing 10 million podcasts downloaded and the involvement of over 500 museums across the country. Online, thousands of people have been submitting their own objects from a miniature 15th century prayer book to a 19th century Ale Jug.

This week we have been revealing some of the objects that are being considered for our last selection. We have heard about objects on the short list such as Didier Drogba's Chelsea shirt, the latest polar clothing and a mobile phone. Also numerous people have been making suggestions about what the object should be. Predictably, the last time I asked, the iPhone seemed to be coming out top. Importantly, and unlike reality TV, although we are getting numerous suggestions from the public, the final item will the choice of Neil MacGregor and the programme team, thus preserving the value of a strong curatorial hand across every episode the series.

Also, while some may question the value of some of the final possibilities, each offers great story-telling potential. Take Drogba's shirt; it is worth pausing and thinking just how many themes it embodies: the globalisation of sport, Russian oligarchs, the cult of celebrity to name but a few. I have no idea if it will be picked. I have asked not to know as I want to enjoy the drama of the announcement on Thursday morning at around 0745 on the Today programme. I hope that you will be listening not only to the news about number 100 but to all of these memorable programmes.

Tim Davie is Director of Audio & Music at the BBC


  • Comment number 1.

    If I had a hope for the new BBC Radio 4 controller, it would be to make ALL Radio 4 programmes sound as good as A History Of The World.

    I know some do, but many fall short of the excellent technical standards achieved with this series.

    So, my 100th object would be a full-quality recording of the entire series on a Micro-SD Card.

  • Comment number 2.

    What a wonderful series, informative and entertaining. Such a shame that it has only been able to skim the surface of the stories lurking in the British Museum - is there any way to dip into some more without it being an anticlimax after Thursday?

  • Comment number 3.

    I have waited eagerly for each episode of AHOTW and I am looking forward to hearing Neil MacGregor reveal his choice for an iconic 21 century object.

    The current unwelcome intrusion into the series by the Today programme has, however, taken away much of my enjoyment. I have stopped listening to the Today programme until AHOTW is finished. The question is: will this two weeks of purdah finally allow me to break the habit of listening to that increasingly uncivil and bullying daily rant.

    In any case I am sure that, having announced the final object this morning the BBC will assume that all their listeners know about it (I was listening to the world service). I suspect I would have to give up the BBC altogether to have a chance of avoiding premature knowledge of the denouement.

  • Comment number 4.

    Peej04, I mentioned the idea of a sequel - 'The Next 100 Objects'? - to Neil MacGregor at this morning's unveiling. He blanched at the suggestion!

    Steve Bowbrick, blogs editor

  • Comment number 5.

    I have really enjoyed the series. It takes us to a whole other world in mind, body & spirit, satisfying in so many ways. In fact, when I was in London for a Travel Writing workshop recently I visited the British Museum with the sole purpose of seeing some of these fascinating objects 'in the flesh' so to speak. (Wrote about with link to BBC website here

    Looking forward to another thought-prvoking lengthy series like this someday soon ...

    Zoe Dawes

  • Comment number 6.

    How very sad that that some consider that AHOTW should have been produced as a television series. Have they no imagination?? This brilliant series has constantly informed, surprised, delighted, intrigued - I could go on - thanks to Neil MacGregor's brilliant commentary, which has evoked so many wonderful mental images. I feel bereft that it's finally come to an end, with an object which was such an inspired choice, but have ordered the book! A very grateful thank you to Mr MacGregor, all those at the Museum and the BBC for making one of the best series the BBC's ever embarked upon. Worth every penny ... and all the hype.


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