The Director of the British Museum steps down after 13 years of skilful cultural diplomacyby Sameer Rahim / April 8, 2015 / Leave a comment
What is Britain’s role in a post-imperial age? After the failed foreign interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the defence budget cuts and increasing scepticism about our membership of the European Union, our politicians are finding this question increasingly difficult to answer. But turn your eyes from Whitehall to Bloomsbury and one national institution has offered a model of constructive engagement with the rest of the world: Neil MacGregor’s British Museum. MacGregor, who has just announced he is standing down as Director in December, has been a huge asset to the museum. For the last eight years, it has been the most visited attraction in the UK. Since he took over in 2002, visitor numbers have risen from 4.6 million to 6.7 million per year. Part of that increase has been down to the spectacular international exhibitions MacGregor and his team have put on, particularly the ones on China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Germany—all countries with which Britain has had, or currently has, fraught relations.