MGM 2005: Museum Chiefs Pick A Few Of Their Favourite Things

By Kate Honeyford | 09 May 2005
Shows a photograph of an ornate carving which depicts scenes from the life of St George. At the top there is a castle, while on different layers below there are depictions of a man on a horse in various poses.

Scenes from the Life of St George. Boxwood Carving from the South Netherlands c1520. Chosen by Alan Guy, Director National Army Museum. The Victoria & Albert Museum© V&A Images/ Victoria and Albert Museum.

Directors of the UK’s national museums and galleries have put the spotlight on their favourite exhibits to celebrate Museums and Galleries Month 2005.

Throughout May 2005, you should find plenty going on at your local museum and beyond. Museums and galleries across the country will be holding events and exhibitions to show off their best objects and there will also be celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War Two and activities on the theme of Sea Britain.

With this year’s theme, Objects of Desire: The Art of Collecting in mind museum and gallery heads have picked out the objects they like the best from museum collections across the UK.

Shows a photograph of a large, floor- standing machine with two handles and many shining metal parts.

Babbage's Difference Engine, chosen by Dr Lindsay Sharp. Science Museum. © Sspl/Science Museum.

Dr Lindsay Sharp, Director of the National Museum of Science and Industry, chose Babbage’s Difference Engine, a machine like a primitive calculator.

“This object represents the birth of computing. Above all, I find it truly inspiring that what started out as an engine to produce mathematical tables could lead to technology that affects everything from finding cures for cancer, to controlling air traffic, to sharing information with anyone across the world via the internet,” said Dr Sharp.

Show a photograph of a sketch on old paper. The drawing shows two views of the framework of a building.

Blotting paper sketch by Joseph Paxton. Chosen by Mark Jones. Victoria & Albert Museum. © V&A Images/ Victoria and Albert Museum.

“My object is a bit of blotting paper,” says Mark Jones, Director of the V&A, “This humble piece of paper preserves a moment of creative brilliance.” Joseph Paxton made the sketch in 1850 during a dull meeting of the directors of the Midlands Railway. Jones explains: “To pass the time he sketched out his ideas for a building to house a great exhibition of the works of all nations. The result was the Crystal Palace.”

The bank of the river Thames in London seems an unlikely place to find a small statue of the Hindu god Ganesh, the favourite of Professor Jack Lohman, Director of the Museum of London.

“It joins the many objects in the Museum of London’s collections that have been found in the river,” he says. “From pre-historic axes and Viking swords to Roman Curses and medieval pilgrim badges, they bear witness to the people and cultures that have come together throughout London’s history.”

Shows a photograph of a carving of the Hindu god Ganesh.

Ganesh, Hindu god. Chosen by Professor Jack Lohman. Museum of London.© Museum of London.

National Museums of Scotland Director Gordon Rintoul picks something much bigger and more modern as his object of desire: Concorde.

He explains: “A flight on Concorde was the height of luxury to which travellers around the globe aspired but very few attained. However visitors to the Museum of Flight can enjoy that unique experience by boarding Scotland’s own Concorde Alpha Alpha.”

Shows a photgraph of the supersonic Concorde airliner.

Concorde chosen by Dr Gordon Rintoul. National Museums of Scotland. © National Museums of Scotland.

Director of the Wallace Collection, Rosalind Savill’s pick is older and smaller. Savill has chosen a 250 year-old gold snuffbox containing a 100 year-old secret.

In a hidden compartment in the box are two miniature portraits, only five centimetres (two inches) by seven and a half (three inches), of famous lovers Voltaire, philosopher and playwright, and Emilie, the Marquise du Chatelet.

Show a photograph of snuff box. The box is open to show a miniature portrait.

Gold and cornelian snuff box, chosen by Rosalind Savill of the Wallace Collection. By kind permission of the Trustees of the Wallace Collection.

Savill explains her choice, “This is a superbly crafted, touchingly human and exquisitely beautiful useful object. It is also three works of art in one… I love it!”

To get a look at all of the museum directors' choices have a look at our Objects of Desire: Directors Choice online exhibition.

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