The Museum Exhibit That Never Was

In 2010, the British Museum and BBC co-presented A History of the World in 100 Objects. However, the key exhibit never saw the light of day. Soul City Wanderer briefs.


Soul City Wanderer’s own book Soul City Wandering was released in 2020. Available in paperback or on Kindle, it encourages readers to rediscover their urban surroundings.


In 2010, the British Museum in conjunction with BBC Radio 4, launched a joint project entitled A History of the World in 100 Objects.

The radio series was written and presented by British Museum director Neil MacGregor.

In actual fact, the original project comprised 99 objects. MacGregor wanted to leave the last spot blank in order for it to be decided by a public vote.

There were five items that made it to the shortlist. One of them, and one of MacGregor’s favourites, was the football shirt of the Chelsea player Didier Drogba, which he wore when the club won the Premier League title that year.

Didier Drogba in action by Ben Sutherland CC license BY 2.0

Unfortunately, the public got the completely wrong end of the stick, and MacGregor was inundated with complaints from furious fans of other football teams who thought that their favourite player should have been nominated for this ‘honour’. The media, too, was none too impressed.

In the end, the 100th object selected was a solar-powered lamp!

The justification behind Didier Drogba’s Chelsea shirt as a museum exhibit was actually quite considered when you think about its global nature:

  • Here was an item of clothing created for one of the most popular pastimes in the world.
  • The shirt was designed by a German company.
  • The shirt was made in China.
  • The shirt was sponsored by a Korean electronics firm.
  • The shirt was worn by a man from the Ivory Coast in Africa, who grew up in France, and was now living in London.
  • The shirt symbolised a club which was managed by an Italian, administered by an American and owned by a Russian.
  • The shirt symbolised a club that had just been crowned champions of the English Premier League.
  • Finally… compared to the other 99 exhibits, this one was contemporary. It was ‘now’.

Was there ever an exhibit that could have encompassed a ‘world object’ to such a degree?

An opportunity lost, one might suggest.


SOUL CITY WANDERING – THE 5-STAR RATED TOP-TEN BESTSELLER

Soul City Wanderer’s own book Soul City Wandering was released in 2020. Available in paperback or on Kindle, it encourages readers to rediscover their urban surroundings.

“A great book… a great guide.

Poems… music… history… and fantastic ways to… go for walks”

Robert Elms, BBC Radio London
Soul City Wandering – the 5-star rated top ten bestseller

Published by Soul City Wanderer

Soul City Wanderer is the alias of London journalist and author Frank Molloy, a writer on the city’s history and culture. Born south of the river, he has an MA in London history (Birkbeck) and lectures at various institutions including the Museum of London and the National Portrait Gallery. He is also a fully-qualified Blue Badge Guide (MITG), Westminster Guide and City of London Guide.

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