Shanghai Museum Director’s Foreword
In the study of any culture, a universal conundrum is how to avoid interpreting that culture’s history through a narrative of Self and Other, it is hard enough to be objective in telling the history of any one nation, not to speak of that of the whole world. There is hardly a world history not narrated from the perspective of the political interest group the author belongs to. For the same reason, people who are told of their own history tend to believe that the history and culture of other nations must be very different from theirs. In this sense, A History of the World in 100 Objects from the British Museum is a remarkable breakthrough. First of all, it tells a history of all human beings not through words, which can easily tinted by subjective opinions, but through objects created by human beings. By compiling manmade objects spanning most of the continents and a period from 2 million years ago to the present day, the exhibition also breaks through the conventional barrier between subjects of archaeology, history, and art history. Most importantly, it shows how different cultures share similar processes of development in early human history, and how they react to each other after making contact, which challenges our view of “globalization”.
A History of the World in 100 Objects started as a joint project of theBritishMuseumand BBC, comprising a 100-part radio series. A book that accompanied the series was published in 2010. As “a museum of the world for the world”, theBritishMuseumcreated an exhibition that shares the same name. The touring exhibition composed of objects from all over the world, has traveled to theUnited Arab Emirates,Japan, andAustralia. It is now inChina, ready to tell the story of human history.
In China’s history of foreign relations,Shanghaihas been playing a role that cannot be overlooked. An archaeological discovery in QinglongTown, Qingpu District has confirmed that the area was once an important trading port during the Tang and Song dynasties. In modern times,Shanghaihas consistently been a window for external exchange. Today, it is an economic and cultural metropolis active on the international stage. As a cultural representative of the city, theShanghaiMuseumis honored to welcome this exhibition. I would like to express my thanks to theBritishMuseumfor loaning the objects, theUKgovernment for funding the project, and all the staff who have worked hard to bring the exhibition toShanghai.
Dr. Yang Zhigang