British Museum blog

President Karzai opens Afghanistan exhibition

St John Simpson, Exhibition Curator

On 22 February 2011, we began a week of previews for the exhibition, including a communities day for groups we regularly engage with through exhibitions such as this. We had a very good turn-out from members of the Afghan community in London for whom this was a very special event. Omer Sultan, the visiting deputy Minister for Culture and Information in Afghanistan, led a special tour of the exhibition and it was touching to see and hear comments from young Afghans who had never seen such items before or believed they would see their country’s treasures in London.

British Museum Director, Neil MacGregor, with Afghanistan's President Karzai and British Foreign Secretary William Hague at the exhibition opening. © Benedict Johnson

This event was followed by back-to-back press interviews with a special press release about the Begram ivories and a press launch for the exhibition. During this time we had over 200 media organisations represented, including print, radio, TV and web, and the coverage has already been global and very positive.

Once the last reporters had left, the final stages of preparations were made for the official opening of the exhibition on 1 March. Well over a thousand invitations had been sent out months in advance but the organisation of the speeches was kept a surprise until the last minute. While the guests were assembling, President Hamid Karzai and William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, arrived at the British Museum and were greeted by the director Neil MacGregor, who led them into the exhibition on a special preview. The delegation also included members of the Afghan Ulema and Sir William Patey, the British ambassador to Afghanistan who has been a great supporter of this exhibition.

Community groups at the exhibition preview. © Benedict Johnson.

The following evening was reserved for the exhibition supporters Bank of America Merrill Lynch and another was given to the Patrons of the British Museum and on 3 March the exhibition opened to the public – the culmination of four years of planning.

The work isn’t finished though. Throughout the next four months that the exhibition is open we have a very varied public programme. It begins next weekend (12 – 13 March) with a two-day conference with papers given by some of the world’s specialists on ancient Afghanistan and its connections with the ancient world. There are some exciting surprises in store for anyone who wants to attend, including how the wonderful glass fish from Begram were made or where Alexander the Great met his future wife Roxane.

If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

Filed under: Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World, Exhibitions

One Response - Comments are closed.

  1. enilla says:

    i really like the crown i wonder wot wud happen if i put it on my head how would i look?


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To celebrate our partnership with @googleartproject, we’ve asked members of British Museum staff to highlight their favourite objects and explain what makes them special. Jill Cook, Deputy Keeper of Britain, Europe & Prehistory, chose this stone chopping tool from an early human campsite in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. ‘Holding this 2 million year old African tool in my hand I am reminded that whatever differences exist between people now, we are united by our common origin in Africa. The discovery of this piece by Louis Leakey in 1931 began to change our understanding of what makes us human. It illustrates the beginning of a transition from an ancestral ape that walked upright on two legs within the confines of a limited ecological niche to humans with more complex brains capable of changing and eventually dominating the world around us by making tools and weapons. This chopping tool is one of the seeds from which all human cultures and societies have grown.’ Discover the stories of thousands of objects in the Google Cultural Institute at

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J H Foley (1818–1874), Caractacus. Marble, 1856–1859. On loan from Guildhall Art Gallery/Mansion House, City of London. Some more #Movember inspiration! Here’s the Museum’s security team from 1902 photographed on the front steps. They include officers from the Metropolitan Police, and the London Fire Brigade (identified by their flat caps). We’re celebrating #Movember with Museum moustaches great and small. Here’s a #Movember fact: Peter the Great of Russia introduced a beard tax in 1698 and this token was given as proof of payment! Our unique new partnership with Google's Cultural Institute @googleartproject now allows you to virtually walk through the whole Museum! The British Museum is the largest space ever to be captured on indoor #StreetView, putting the unparalleled world collection at your fingertips. Come and explore!
#MuseumOfTheWorld #Google #ForEveryone Have you explored the Museum on @googleartproject yet? You'll now find over 5,000 objects in the Google Cultural Institute, including virtual exhibits inspired by #Celts and #EgyptExhibition as well as gigapixel imagery and the whole Museum on #StreetView!

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