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?


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 14,491 other followers


Follow @britishmuseum on Twitter

British Museum on Instagram

#todayimet goddess of love, Aphrodite. In this statue the voluptuous Aphrodite crouches down at her bath and turns her head sharply to her right, as if surprised by her audience. This Roman copy from the 2nd century AD is based on an original sculpture from Hellenistic Greece. This statue is lent to the British Museum by Her Majesty the Queen.
You can fall for the goddess of love in Room 23, one of our Greek and Roman sculpture galleries.
We’re celebrating @instagram's 5th birthday by sharing portraits of some of the characters you can find in the Museum #WWIM12 For @instagram's 5th birthday we’re sharing portraits of some of the characters you can find in the British Museum.
#todayimet this Ming Dynasty figure, who helped judge people in the underworld! The belief in Hell entered China with Buddhism during the early 1st millennium AD. This figure of a judge’s assistant is holding records of evil deeds under his left arm. Meet this fearsome figure (if you dare!) in our Asia gallery (Room 33) #WWIM12 We’re celebrating @instagram's 5th birthday by sharing portraits of some of the characters you can find in the Museum.
#todayimet Ramesses II, who ruled Egypt for 67 years over 3,000 years ago. This colossal statue is one of the largest pieces of Egyptian sculpture in the British Museum. Like all Egyptian statues, it was originally painted. Traces of pigment remain: black for the eye pupils, red for the skin, and blue and yellow for the stripes on the headcloth.
Meet the pharaoh for yourself in our Egyptian Sculpture Gallery (Room 4) #WWIM12 Our #Celts exhibition opens today! It brings together the incredible Iron Age, Roman and early medieval collections of the British Museum and @nationalmuseumsscotland.
Roman control of southern Britain broke down around AD 410. New leaders established Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England, and Roman towns and cities were largely abandoned. Neighbouring communities in Scotland, Ireland and Wales continued to develop their own unique identities. Monasteries in these areas stood out as European centres of art, learning and literacy, perpetuating and reinventing local traditions. Communities here spoke languages that we now call Celtic, and practiced a distinctive form of Christianity.
Striking stone crosses, such as this one found in Monifieth, Scotland, combined ancient Celtic curves with Anglo-Saxon knotwork and interlace designs to express these distinctive Celtic identities in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. This sculpture may have been a personal memorial or grave-slab.
Slab of grey sandstone with a cross on one side. From Monifieth, Angus, Scotland, c. AD 800–900. National Museums Scotland.
Find out more about #Celtic art and history and book tickets at Our #Celts exhibition opens today! It brings together stunning objects from the British and Irish Isles as well spectacular loans from across Europe.
This magnificent cauldron is one of the most important and intriguing finds from ancient Europe. It reveals connections between communities thousands of miles apart. Although it depicts objects used in central and western Europe,
it was found in a bog near Gundestrup in Denmark, beyond the northern edge of the Celtic regions. The style of the designs suggests that it was made further east, in Bulgaria or Romania. The strange animals and cross-legged pose of
the antlered figure hint at even wider influences, from as far afield as Asia. The scenes on the panels give a glimpse into a world of ancient myths, and the stories of gods and heroes whose names are now lost.
The Gundestrup cauldron was probably reserved for important rituals. It is likely that most people would have viewed it from a distance, seeing only the forbidding faces of gods and goddesses on the outer panels. The fantastical scenes on the inside would have been revealed to those allowed to experience the cauldron close up.
Gundestrup cauldron. Iron Age, c. 100 BC–AD 1. Found in Gundestrup, northern Jutland, Denmark. @nationalmuseet, #Denmark.
Find out more about #Celtic art and history and book tickets at Our major new #Celts exhibition is now open! Come on a 2,500-year journey tracing what it means to be Celtic...
The peoples first referred to as Celts lived across much of Europe north of the Alps, in villages or fortified hilltop settlements. Although not a single distinct group, they were interconnected, sharing cultural ideas across the continent. The objects they made for feasting, religious ceremonies, adornment and warfare were both stunning works of art and powerful ways to convey shared values and beliefs. Their unique abstract style set them apart from the classical world, but their technological accomplishments stand on par with the finest achievements of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
2,000 years ago valuable objects like this were cast into rivers. This magnificent shield was found in the River Thames at Battersea Bridge. It was not made for serious warfare as it is too short to provide sensible protection. Instead, it was probably made for flamboyant display. The highly polished bronze and glinting red glass would have made for a great spectacle.
The Battersea shield. Iron Age, c. 350–50 BC. Found in the River Thames, London, England.
Find out more about #Celtic art and history and book tickets at

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 14,491 other followers

%d bloggers like this: