Does this do what it says on the tin and does it matter if it doesn't? At the start of the V&A's latest exhibition you're led to believe that the objects on display will tell a particular story. This, according to a board at the entrance, is the story of diplomatic gift-exchange between the Tudor and Stuart courts and their counterparts in Russia – then known as Muscovy.
For an artifact with such an awesome legacy, the Cyrus Cylinder is remarkably unprepossessing. It looks like a small loaf of rye bread from which someone has broken off a chunk. Yet this nine-inch long piece of baked clay inscribed with cuneiform script — which begins a five-city tour of the United States in Washington this week -- has inspired religious and political thinkers from ancient times through the drafters of the US Constitution and the founders of modern-day Israel.
This week the International Council Of Museums' sold-out conference Working Internationally shows how museums are looking out beyond the shores of the British Isles. The big nationals are, of course, doing extensive international work. The V&A tours exhibitions to India, China, Japan and the USA, amongst others.
Masterpieces by Rembrandt, Poussin and Velazquez are among a collection of over 40 works from the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg which will travel to Britain for a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition at one of this country’s finest historic houses, Houghton in Norfolk.
“The public interest must surely be in upholding the rule of law, rather than promoting an international free-for-all through the unrestricted circulation of tainted works of art. Do we really wish to educate our children to have no respect for history, legality and ethical values by providing museums with the opportunity freely to exhibit stolen property?”
It was an unprecedented opportunity to talk about the role of culture internationally, what cultural organisations have in common and what sets them apart. It was a chance to ask questions, share experience and find solutions.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf returned home to Liberia on Wednesday, following a most successful visit to the United States of America, where her activities took her to Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and, of course, the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.
How does culture sell a nation? Monocle and the V&A host a lively discussion on museums as soft-power ambassadors, with panellists including nation branding expert Simon Anholt, the senior French heritage curator Lurence de Cars and the Minister of State at the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office.