The former director of the British Museum and National Gallery will travel the UK shining a light on the country’s museums for an upcoming BBC Radio 4 series.
In The Museums That Make Us, Neil MacGregor will look outside London at institutions in locations such as Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool.
The art historian will also visit national museums in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland in a bid to understand the purpose of these projects in 2022 and the challenges curators face.
The first programme will feature a visit to the gardens of Stowe in Buckinghamshire, where in the 1740s “the first example of a vision of Britain outside London was established” including the Temple of British Worthies, a monument featuring a series of busts.
Each episode will then see MacGregor visit a single museum and invite its curator to choose an item from their collection which illustrates the museum’s role and relationship to its local audience.
He said: “Museums have always been telescopes trained on the past to help locate a sense of place in the present.
“What’s going on in our museums today is at once challenging and exciting, and it can only really be understood by visiting as many as possible and finding out how they have approached what is a vital role in providing a sense of local, regional and national identity.”
Richard Knight, commissioner for Radio 4, said: “We’re delighted Neil MacGregor – a key figure in the world of museums and of course much loved by the Radio 4 audience – has taken on this challenge: to shine a light on our regional museums as they seek to recover after the pandemic.
“These are institutions which find themselves on the frontline of contemporary debates about our past.
“As well as guiding us towards some extraordinary collections, right across the UK, this is a chance for Neil to help us think more deeply about the role of these important and valuable places in curating our shared history.”
The Museums That Make Us will broadcast weekdays at 1.45pm on BBC Radio 4 from March 7 and be available as a podcast on BBC Sounds.