The Museums That Make Us

The Museums That Make Us

Curating Our Shared History


World-renowned art historian Neil MacGregor takes us across Britain to discover local museums and their hidden gems

Neil MacGregor, former director of the National Gallery and the British Museum, knows the importance of public museums. In The Museums That Make Us, he takes us around the country to visit twenty local museums and to talk to their curators, staff and local figures about the most prized objects in their collections. Often a child's first experience of valuable objects and historical belongings, these regional spaces can be a wonderful way to recognise local pride and shine a light on buried history.

At Penrhyn Castle in North Wales, the museum strives to tell the story of their rich collection of art while also being truthful about the slave trade that made it possible; on the Isle of Lewis, the Museum Tasglann nan Eilean wants to share the story of land ownership and clearances through their objects; at the Leeds Museum, a Roman child's sandal has been chosen to demonstrate their ambitious and thriving scheme of having exhibits leave the museum to go out to schools; and in Bristol's M Shed Museum, one of the city's old Lodekka Buses is used to tell the story of the successful Bristol Bus boycott of 1963.

Travelling from Stowe, one of the first examples of a vision of Britain outside London, to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, where he looks at an ancient Syrian model clay wagon, possibly a child's toy, to examine how museums can provide for a huge breadth of local people from all over the world, Neil MacGregor uses these invaluable community sites to consider how they are run, who they draw in, and how they can inspire us all.

Episode guide
First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on the following dates:
Stowe and the Temple of British Worthies 7 March 2022
The Tower Museum, Derry Londonderry 8 March 2022
Penrhyn Castle, North Wales 9 March 2022
PK Porthcurno - Museum of Global Communications 10 March 2022
Museum & Tasglann nan Eilean, Stornoway 11 March 2022
Derby - The Museum of Making 14 March 2022
The Food Museum, Suffolk 15 March 2022
The Auckland Project, Bishop Auckland 16 March 2022
The Hepworth, Wakefield 17 March 2022
Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton 18 March 2022
Leicester Museum and Art Gallery 11 April 2022
Bristol's M Shed Museum 12 April 2022
Birmingham 13 April 2022
Liverpool 14 April 2022
Leeds 15 April 2022
The National Museum of Scotland 18 April 2022
The National Museum of NI, Belfast 19 April 2022
The National Museums of Wales, Cardiff 20 April 2022
The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 21 April 2022
What are museums for? 22 April 2022

Production credits
Presented by Neil MacGregor
Produced by Tom Alban
Original music by Phil Channell

©2022 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd (P) 2022 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd

About the author

Neil MacGregor

Neil MacGregor was Director of the National Gallery, London from 1987 to 2002 and of the British Museum from 2002 to 2015, and Chair of the Steering Committee of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin from 2015 to 2018. His previous books include A History of the World in 100 Objects, Shakespeare's Restless World and Germany: Memories of a Nation, all available in Penguin and now between them translated into more than a dozen languages. In 2010, he was made a member of the Order of Merit, the UK's highest civil honour. In 2015 he was awarded the Goethe Medal and the German National Prize. In 2018 the radio series Living with the Gods received the Sandford Saint Martin Award for Religious Broadcasting.
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