The British Museum Podcast

The British Museum is famous for its objects, which represent over 2 million years of human history and culture. The objects speak to us thanks to the experts who have helped to tell their stories for well over two centuries. This podcast takes a fresh look at some of the tales that have shaped the Museum’s story – both famous and less well known.
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The British Museum Podcast





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Dec 2, 2020

This month we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Great Court, so Sian and Francesca head to the archives to find out more about the building of this incredible space. Also from the archives we have an interview with Rentakill hawker Laura alongside Stella the Harris hawk, who used to frequent the Museum to try and rid the outside spaces of pesky pigeons. Curator Irving Finkel also talks about the history of chess and backgammon in excerpts first recorded for the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic world.

Nov 4, 2020

This month Hugo and Sushma check in with Amber Lincoln, lead curator of the Citi exhibition ‘Arctic: culture and climate’. They talk with Rachel King, curator of European Renaissance, about the Waddesdon Bequest and a special display of a 19th-century ewer. Finally, archaeologist Sebastien Rey describes a beautiful fragment that was illegally excavated in Iraq, that will be repatriated in December.

Oct 7, 2020

This month hails Hugo and Sushma’s triumphant return they are talking with Sandra Smith, head of Collection Care about how your breath helps objects in the galleries. Sushma chats with Imma Ramos, lead curator of our new Tantra exhibition, and Sian and Francesca meet in the archives once again to talk about the staff canteen, of all things.

Sep 7, 2020

This month Sushma returns to presenting, talking with Maria Bojanowska, Dorset Foundation Head of National Programmes – they discuss the many ways the British Museum makes the collection accessible nationwide. Food historian Tasha Marks is back, this time taking a sip of history and looking at how afternoon tea came to be, and finally Lead Archaeologist Sebastien Rey gives an insight into which object he is most excited to see now that the Museum has reopened.

Aug 23, 2020

The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition falls on 23 August.

To mark this date, Hartwig Fischer and Sushma Jansari are joined by guests Olivette Otele and Bonnie Greer to discuss the legacies of slavery, its impact on today’s society, and how museums should respond to these histories both now and in the future.

The wide-ranging conversation touches on how the British Museum engages with its own history, how it was shaped by empire, questions who ‘writes’ history, and reflects on how museums and institutions can widen access, increase diversity and co-curate effectively.


Bonnie Greer is a writer, playwright, broadcaster, critic and political commentator, and former Deputy Chair of the British Museum.

Olivette Otele is Professor of the History of Slavery at Bristol University and Vice-President of the Royal Historical Society and the Chair for Bristol’s Race Equality Commission. 

Aug 21, 2020

In 1753, Sir Hans Sloane bequeathed his collection of over 70,000 objects to the nation, founding the British Museum’s collection, and those that would become the British Library and Natural History Museum. 

His collection spanned from natural history specimens to ancient sculpture, plants and contemporary 18th-century objects. But Sloane’s collecting is tied closely to colonialism, empire and slavery – his family profited from sugar plantations in Jamaica worked by enslaved people, and some of the objects in his collection were also collected with assistance from enslaved people. So how do we navigate Sloane’s story in the 21st century?

Guests Miranda Lowe and James Delbourgo explore Sloane’s life, collecting and legacy with Hartwig Fischer and Sushma Jansari, and examine the role of slavery and enslaved people in his collection and collecting practices. They also consider how museums should respond to these histories and to figures like Sloane.


Miranda Lowe is Principal Curator and museum scientist at the Natural History Museum. 

James Delbourgo is the James Westfall Thompson Distinguished Professor of History at Rutgers University, New Jersey.

Aug 5, 2020

This month we are doing something a little bit different, find out more in this special announcement!

Jul 1, 2020

This month we're talking food history and Renaissance art. First up, Hugo talks to Alexandra Fletcher about the unlikely (to some!) combination of archaeology and ice cream. Inspired by this, and as the weather heats up, we asked food historian Tasha Marks to delve deeper into the history of ice cream. Curator Jamie Fraser also gives us an overview of the significance and production of olive oil in the ancient Levant, and Hugo pays homage to Raphael to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist's death.

During this challenging time, we’re bringing inspiring stories of humanity’s shared histories and cultural achievements to millions of people online. Your support ensures that we can continue to make the collection and programmes like this one available to as many people as possible. If you can, please donate today

Jun 3, 2020

This month Sushma is on furlough leave but Hugo and Sian interview Head of Collection Management Leonora Baird Smith about caring for the collection in lockdown. Dr Janina Ramirez talks about scripting her love letter to the Museum for the BBC Four ‘Museums in Quarantine’ documentary series, and Clive Gamble, renowned archaeologist and former Museum Trustee, discusses how humans became a global species and how we use objects to stay in touch.

May 7, 2020

This month Hugo, Sushma (pre-furlough) and Sian talk about how lockdown is affecting them and their work. Curator Sarah Vowles gives us some in-depth insight into a monumental map of Venice made over 500 years ago by Jacopo de’ Barbari (a zoomable image of which can be found on our revamped Collection online at Volunteer Mariu Huriaga talks about her experience of giving tours all around the Museum for over two decades.

Apr 1, 2020

Unlucky for some, episode 13 of the Museum podcast sees the Museum closed for the first time since the war, but fear not – the podcast soldiers on. This month Hugo and Sushma look at an area of work that is dear to all of our hearts: equality and diversity. Curator Gareth Bereton presents the object of the month: the beautiful and enigmatic Standard of Ur. There’s no archive section this month as Francesca has been poorly,  so we wish her a hearty get well soon.  

Mar 4, 2020

In honour of Women’s History month Hugo and Sushma are exploring how women have interacted with the museum since its opening in 1759. In the archives, Sian and Francesca discuss some of the earliest female researchers and scholars, as well as a libel case relating to the much-slandered pioneering feminist Victoria Woodhull who ran for the American Presidency in 1872. Hugo chats with Alexandra (otherwise known as Sally) Fletcher about her archaeological career and its connection with pioneering archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon.

Feb 5, 2020

This month Hugo and Sushma meet Stuart Frost – the Museum’s Head of Interpretation and Volunteers – to discuss how we create narratives around the collection and how volunteers are vital in supporting the work of the Museum. In the archives, Sian and Francesca look at the history of clubs and societies for Museum staff. For object of the month, Jill Cook – Deputy Keeper of Prehistory and Europe – talks about a stone tool from the original collection of the Museum’s founder Sir Hans Sloane.

Jan 22, 2020

Alexandra Villing, curator of the BP exhibition Troy: myth and reality talks with classicist Natalie Haynes about the wives, mothers, seers, queens, and goddesses at the heart of the Trojan myth.

The BP exhibition Troy: myth and reality is open until 8 March. To book your tickets visit:



Jan 1, 2020

Hugo and Sushma kick off 2020 with an interview with the Museum’s director, Hartwig Fischer. In the archives, Francesca and Sian take a look at the history of the Hirayama Paper conservation studio.

Dec 18, 2019

From us to you, a very British Museum Christmas gift: we invited twelve colleagues across the Museum to tell us about their favourite objects and gathered their responses into a special Christmas compendium. Hear all about the objects that they find inspiring, and the stories behind them.

 Sushma Jansari – the Mathura lion capital (Room 33)

Elizabeth Morrison –the Folkton Drums (Room 51)

Sian Toogood –  Greek slingshot (Room 69)

Ros Winton – Ancient Egyptian model (Room 65)

Tess Sanders – the Assyrian Lion hunt reliefs (Room 10)

Lee Roberts – Painted Japanese screen (tigers crossing a river) (Room 92)

Nick Harris – Japanese hand grenade casings in (Room 94)

Francesca Hillier – Palmerston gold cups (Room 47)

Alfie Meek – the Alfie lions (Room 47)

Russ McKeown –  Portrait of late director Lord Wolfenden (not on display)

Richard Wakeman – the Vindolanda tablets (Room 50)

Hugo Chapman – Samuel Palmer watercolour (Prints and Drawings Study Room)

Dec 4, 2019

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, so Sushma and Sian (filling in for Hugo) are serving array of festive delights from the Museum. Sushma talks to Tim Clarke, Head of the Japanese Section as he looks back at almost four decades of work at the British Museum, while Sian and Francesca head back to the archives to check out Christmas cards from the 30s.

Nov 6, 2019

Laura Osorio Sunnucks, head of the Santo Domingo Centre of Excellence for Latin American Research, joins Hugo and Sushma to talk about Amazonian objects. In the Money gallery, Tom Hockenhull introduces a communist poster from 1990, and Francesca and Sian are back in the archives to explore Museum blueprints.

Oct 2, 2019

This month Hugo and Sushma are talking to Belinda Crerar about how the Museum uses changing displays in Room 3 to respond to what is happening in the world today. We also raid the archives to chart the history of children’s visits to the Museum, and as Object of the month Venetia Porter talks about the Salcombe Hoard – an impressive discovery of gold and weapons from the Bronze Age.  

Sep 9, 2019

Hugo and Sushma leave the cosy confines of the office and head into the basements to meet with Dan O’Flynn and his X-ray machine. Francesca Hillier scours the Trustees’ minutes to talk ‘modesty boards’ and the Museum’s first female curator. Object of the month is an exclusive piece of audio from ‘Decoded’ – an upcoming video series on our YouTube channel.

Aug 7, 2019

It’s August and in the heat of summer, Hugo and Sushma chat to Podcast producer Alfie Meek about what it’s like being a trainee at the Museum, as well as talking to Naomi Salinas Burton who organises the Museum Futures programme – the National Lottery Heritage Fund initiative that brought Alfie to Bloomsbury. 

Francesca Hillier digs into the archives to tell us about the Museum’s most-visited exhibition of all time – our 1972 show on Tutankhamun that attracted over 1.6 million visitors.

In Object of the month, Eleanor Hyun explains why a family heirloom is so special and gives a bonus mention for two friendly little objects that you can see in the Korea Foundation Gallery.

Jul 3, 2019

In this month’s episode, Hugo and Sushma talk to Michael Lewis about the Portable Antiquities Scheme, metal detecting and finds of treasure in the UK. We examine how artists have subverted the humble postcard as Hugo chats with Jenny Ramkalawon in our free exhibition.

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the release of ‘Blackmail’, Alfred Hitchcock’s first non-silent movie, Francesca Hillier raids the archives to find out more about how this film was shot in the Museum.

Professor, author and broadcaster Jim Al-Khalili talks about July’s Object of the month – an astrolabe from our Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World.




Jun 5, 2019


June marks the 80th anniversary or the discovery and excavation of the Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo, one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th this episode Hugo and Sushma discuss all things Sutton Hoo with Sue Brunning, including a look at some of the less blingy objects in the burial. Sushma also takes a tour of our free exhibition ' reimagining Captain Cook: Pacific perspectives' (open until 4th August) with the show's curator Julie Adams.

Henry Flynn talks about the Object of the month – a Dr Who banknote – and Francesca digs deep into the archives to find more stories from Sutton Hoo.

May 1, 2019

In this month’s episode, scientist Kate Fulcher discusses her research into ancient Egyptian coffin residue – otherwise known as ‘black goo’ – and Leonora Baird-Smith talks poison, gold, and marzipan as she delves into the complex world of collections care.

Francesca Hillier produces some unexpected finds from the archives relating to Montague House (the original building that housed the British Museum collection) and, for Object of the month, Jamie Fraser explains why sometimes it’s really useful to NOT do the washing up.

Apr 3, 2019

This month presenters Hugo and Sushma chat with Ceri Ashley who is coordinating the brand new endangered material knowledge project, a project dedicated to preserving the more intangible aspects of human culture and with Nick Kendall one of the longest serving members of staff at the Museum who knows the buildings of the Museum inside out.

Francesca Hillier introduces the archives and tells us about a strange new find that has been presented to the archives.

Object of the Month is the Aylesford bucket presented by Julia Farley, curator of British and European Iron age collections

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