Documentary that goes behind the scenes at the British Museum. A curious breed of experts cares for some of the BM’s most important and fragile treasures; they are the conservators. Metals conservator Alex Baldwin is giving a makeover to a corroded Roman bronze statue affectionately known as Charlie, Karen Birkholzer is approaching the end of a six-year project conserving Egyptian wall paintings from the tomb of Nebamun, and gallery manager Brendan Moore has a problem with a stuffed monkey.
Part 1: Taking Care of the Past
A behind-the-scenes look at the Museum’s busy Conservation Department as they treat the Hellenistic bronze sculpture of a youth, affectionately known as Charlie’, and restore some of the finest ancient Egyptian wall paintings from the tomb of Nebamun.
Part 2: Bodies of Knowledge
The stories behind some of the 8,000 human remains in the Museum’s collection, including the Lindow Man and mummies. We see how changing attitudes have led to greater awareness of the sensitivities of indigenous peoples, and witness the historic return of aboriginal ash bundles to representatives of the aboriginal peoples of Tasmania.
Part 3: The BM Goes East
We head east to China to see the Museum’s Director, Neil MacGregor, measure up terracotta soldiers and strike the deal for Autumn 2007’s blockbuster exhibition, The First Emperor. We also follow the BM heavy mob transporting massive Assyrian wall reliefs to an exhibition in China.
Part 4: Bursting at the Seams
The story of the famous building itself – the never ending challenge of updating the storage facilities, dealing with leaks and power cuts, the hawk that chases the pigeons away, and restoring the historic front gates.
Part 5: Putting on a Blockbuster
The preparation and opening of the blockbuster Michelangelo Drawings exhibition with curator Hugo Chapman and a look at how the Museum handles over 5 million visitors a year with some of its dedicated Visitor Hosts.
Part 6: Shopping for Posterity
How the Museum uses limited funds to acquire new objects to complement the existing collections, from the rare 8th-9th-century Coenwulf coin, to remarkable medals and the modern African art installation, La Bouche du Roi.
Part 7: Curators of the Here and Now
Two curators developing and fulfilling cutting edge projects – one with a range of contemporary artists from the Middle East and another staging an installation and workshops with prisoners in Pentonville Prison.
Part 8: Old Pots and Puzzles
An insight into the constant research taking place across the Museum and how to unravel the mysteries of the past, from the decoding of symbols and imagery on Nasca pots to the mysteries of cuneiform tablets and ancient writing.
Part 9: Things Aren’t What they Seem
Fakes and replicas: how to spot them and how to make them. The programme features the painstaking creation of a replica of the head of Amenhotep III and a replica Rosetta Stone.
Part 10: Beyond Bloomsbury
The extensive work of the Museum within the community, following the creation of an image of the goddess Durga in the Great Court by master craftsmen from India, and its work throughout the UK with partner institutions, including a massively successful touring exhibition on ancient board games and getting hooked on a 1.8 million-year-old handaxe – as curator Jill Cook says, without this stone tool, we wouldn’t have our mobiles.’