Throwback Thursday – British Museum Spotlight Loans and the International Training Programme

Written by Claire Messenger, Manager, International Training Programme

Further engagement projects are essential to the core objectives of the International Training Programme (ITP). Finding ways to give our fellows the widest possible opportunities for further training and development is fundamental.  Legacy projects for the ITP network are many and varied to try to ensure we can offer something for everyone, whatever their professional and personal interests.

The British Museum’s (BM) series of Spotlight loans and tours across the UK form an integral part of the British Museum’s strategy and approach to sharing its collection with the nation. The programme gives UK museums the opportunity to borrow objects free of charge and it is an excellent opportunity for the BM to display its objects in different contexts, which can bring out new approaches and interpretations, as well as drawing on other museums’ collections, experiences and expertise.

The ITP team have been delighted to partner with colleagues around the British Museum and UK to bring our global network into this programme.

In 2011, Manisha Nene, Asst. Director (Gallery) at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CMSVS) Mumbai, supported by the Charles Wallace India Trust, attended the ITP.  Her final exhibition proposal project, Visions of Ganesha, clearly demonstrated her knowledge of her own culture, her museum/heritage experience and the skill-set developed while here on the ITP summer programme.  Subsequently, the British Museum invited Manisha to join us again in London to develop her original concept into an exhibition for the British Museum’s Room 3 – the Asahi Shimbun Displays.  Manisha’s project was transformed into From temple to home: celebrating Ganesha and from February to May 2014 was seen by 62,480 visitors.

The exhibition was then developed, by our National Partnerships team, into a Spotlight Loan which then touring the UK and attracted over 600,000 visitors.  We were delighted that two of our UK and programme partners, Manchester Museum and the Horniman Museum and Gardens, were part of this tour.

Then, in January 2017, the ITP team were delighted to be approached by the Departments of Greece and Rome and Learning and National Partnerships (LNP) to collaborate on another Spotlight Loan project. Following on from the wonderfully creative Object in Focus project that she worked on while here on the ITP, Barbara Vujanović (Croatia, ITP 2016) Senior Curator, The Ivan Meštrović Museums – Meštrović Atelier, Zagreb was invited back to the British Museum. Barbara was asked to co-curate a touring exhibition to follow on from the British Museum show Rodin and the art of ancient Greece.

Barbara’s show, Rodin: rethinking the fragment toured to three venues around the country, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, the Holburne Museum, Bath and the New Art Gallery Walsall. Each venue interpreted Barbara’s story differently depending on their own collections and creative thinking.

At Abbot Hall in Kendal, the aim was to interact with and include the museum’s visitors who were asked to consider the question – “What’s The Thinker thinking?” – and add their answers to the display wall.

While Holburne Museum contributed to the exhibition by adding objects from their collection. The selected pieces revealed Sir William Holburne’s interest in the arts of ancient Greece and Rome, which informed his collecting throughout his life.

Finally, at the New Art Gallery Warsaw, 2019 – to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Jacob Epstein’s death – the gallery was showcasing sculpture in all its forms through a season titled Sculpture in Focus, and this provided a perfect setting for Barbara’s show.

At each venue, Barbara gave a curator’s talk which introduced the subject and gave her the opportunity to share her thoughts and expertise.

These collaborations gave Manisha and Barbara the opportunity to understand, in principle and practice, how a Spotlight Loan was created, organised and delivered working alongside colleagues at the British Museum.  It also gave them the chance to share skills and experiences and to meet new colleagues in the UK and enlarge their professional networks.

We would like to thank Manisha – and CSMVS Mumbai – for her original proposal which went on to inspire such a successful and rewarding touring show, generously supported by the Dorset Foundation.

And to thank Barbara for her dedication and hard-work, the Marie-Louise von Motesicky Charitable Trust for enabling us to support Barbara’s participation in this Spotlight Loan, the John Armitage Trust for sponsoring Barbara’s place on the Summer Programme, and the Burrell Collection, Glasgow for generously agreeing to the loan of The Thinker.

And, of course, we hope that our collaborations with colleagues around the British Museum doesn’t end there and that we have the opportunity to deliver more of these Spotlight Loans with the support of our ITP network.