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The World in a Box

BBC4, Sunday, June 8, 7.30-8.30pm

What are museums for? Who first thought of them? This history of the British Museum answers some questions. It all started 250 years ago this month, with Sir Hans Sloane's "cabinet of antiquities", a collection of some 80,000 objects: plants, animals, curios and artefacts from around the world, which offered entertainment in days that, for us, would seem otherwise largely devoid of that commodity. But museums also provided for the growing scientific interests of the age of enlightenment, and collections were where the natural world could be classified and rationalised. This scientific research, plus entertainment (or education), is reflected in museums today. There is a lot to consider and discuss in this portrait of a great institution.

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