Why did you decide to have this exhibition?
There was an exhibition at the British Museum in London called A History of the World in 100 Objects and I thought it was fantastic. There was a great book with it and a great radio programme about it, too. I thought to myself, we couldn’t really tell A History of the World in 50 Objects from the Nicholson Museum, because that might be a bit cheeky. So how could we do it? I thought, let’s have 50 objects that aren’t necessarily the prettiest or the most famous, but they have a really great story. I love storytelling.
How did you choose the 50 objects?
They were chosen specifically because they had a story. In the storeroom we have 30,000 objects, so we could have picked 500! Originally, I had 100 objects, then I looked at all of them and thought, well, I love that story and so on. But with quite a few, I had to discover their story, and even up to the last moment, some were chosen, literally, as I was writing it, because I suddenly found it had a great story. Others didn’t have a story at all.
What is so special about these objects? Are they rare or valuable?
Some are very rare, think of the great Hathor capitol [a granite block of a column from the Temple of Bastet at Bubastis]…
And the prehistoric stone axe?
Yes, the hand-axe! Brilliant. But some of the other things aren’t necessarily that rare, especially some of the pots. But they all had a great story. So again it comes back to the story.
Where are they from?
They’re from all over the world. A lot come from Egypt, Greece and Italy, as you might expect. But what people don’t expect, are objects from France, Ireland, India and Pakistan. That makes the exhibition far broader, so they really are from all over the world.
What is your favourite object in the exhibition?
[laughs] I get asked that question a lot. Could it be something I love when I walk into the museum or is it something I’d like to have at home? Well the Egyptian Hathor capitol weighs seven tonnes, so it would be a bit difficult to take that home and put on the bookcase, even though I love it. I think it’s beautiful.
At the moment my favourite object is the marble statue of Eros, a little boy tied to a tree. What is your favourite object?
I really like the gold pendant, the crescent-shaped one. I just learned it’s a missing earring from Egypt.
Yes that it beautiful too, really, really beautiful.
Which one is your favourite story?
It’s got to be the one about the helmet! That’s easy, because you wrote it. With that helmet, all we know is it’s a South Italian helmet, it’s 4th century BC and it came from a grave and that’s it. It doesn’t have a story because it wasn’t recorded, we don’t know who owned it before we had it. So it’s so fantastic that you have given it a story.
That story will stay with it forever.
How do you think my story fits in? All the others are non-fiction, but my story is a fun story for kids. Is that a little bit strange?
I think it’s not just for kids. Grown-up people have told me they love that story. One guy, he was ancient, he must have been 60, he said, "I love that story about the helmet, I understand the point being made is that some objects don’t have stories." So it’s not just a story for fun, it’s far more important than that.