Published  02/05/2003

How world cultures were united

This summer, the British Museum celebrates a quarter of a millennium of history, with a special exhibition in the Joseph Hotung Gallery of the Great Court. The exhibition is something of a curatorial squeeze, and deals with the interaction of memory and objects. Entitled 'The Museum of the Mind: Art and Memory in World Cultures', the show runs through to 7 September 2003.

It poses such questions as; how is memory formed through objects? How often is this process falsifying the truth? Did Homer look like the bust in the show? Did he really exist at all? How did Albrecht Dürer make sense of a rhinoceros he had never seen? And isn't Dürer's beast much more elegant and interesting than the real animal ever was? This is a mnemonic exhibition, and the chances are we will all remember it at least as much as the individual exhibits have been remembered over the centuries. Remember Oliver Cromwell? His death mask is here too. It shares, with all other death masks, a total lack of truth about the person who lived and, in Cromwell’s case, was abhorred, and died exceedingly unpopular. 'The Museum of the Mind: Art and Memory in World Cultures' exhibition will be reviewed here in May.

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