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A lucky accident?

Budai's journey across the world

During his journey from Shanghai, Budai Hesheng’s plinth was broken. It was probably because of this damage that the Chinese art dealer John Sparks (based at 128 Mount Street) wasn’t able to sell him to a private collector and instead donated him to the British Museum.


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Collection Data

The collection is tiny. Ten objects. It’s liberating to have such a small collection, because our work can be not related to understanding the scope and scale of it, but to quickly dive into stories about each object.

All the objects are listed as Museum in a Box Version 1. In the last couple of days, we’ve focused on single objects, but have some ideas for looking at the whole collection as a group in next week’s work. The fact that this is a semi-random set of British Museum objects is also lending itself to an editorial point of view on the last two days, to look into stories about where each object came from around the world, and how it ended up in Bloomsbury.

But, to the point of this post, we’re also publishing this collection data online. It’s right here (Version 1, last updated 2:20pm March 20, 2015) as a CSV:

Object Name,MIAB_ID,MIAB_URL,BM Explore URL,BM Collection URL,BM Open Data URL,Wikipedia,MyMiniFactory ID,Country of Origin,Place Found,Period,Date,Measurements,Material,Notes
Colossal Marble Foot,37542537,,,,GAA80104,,4566,Italy,Italy / Naples,Roman Imperial,1st-2nd AD,"L:88.9cm, W:48.26cm",Parian marble,Statue would have been 5m tall
Crouching Lion,37542546,,,"|34484,|assetId=172268&objectId=460580&partId=1",GAA8133,,4410,Turkey,Turkey / Xanthus,Classical Greek,400BC,L:1.6m,marble,
Henan Budai Buddha,37542555,,,,RRC10037,,3396,China,China / Henan,Ming dynasty,1486,"H:119.2cm, W:65cm, D:41cm",,
Hoa Hakananai'a,37542564,,,,EOC3130,,3228,Easter Island,Polynesia / Easter Island / Orongo,,1200 (approx),"H:242cm, W:96cm, D:47cm","stone, coral, basalt",Hoa Hakananai'a ('lost or stolen friend') / Moai (ancestor figure)
Housepost,37542573,,,,EOC23102,,4667,Papua New Guinea,Oceania / Melanesia / New Guinea / Papua New Guinea / East Sepik / Ambunti,,Register 1964,"H:100 inches, H:254cm",wood,Anthropomorphic
Nandi Bull,37542582,,,,RRI6925,,4582,India,,,,,,
Rosetta Stone,37542591,,,,YCA62958,,4537,Egypt,Lower Egypt / Nile Delta / El-Rashid / Fort Saint Julie,Ptolemaic,196BC,"H:112.3cm, W:75.7cm, D:28.4cm",granodiorite,Translation
Stone Figure of Xochipilli,37542600,,,,ESA92,,5099,Mexico,,Mexica,AD 1325-1521,"H:55cm, W:32cm","basalt, volcanic stone",Male or Female?
The Bodhisattva Tara,37542609,,,,RRI137,,3002,Sri Lanka,"between Trincomalee and Batticaloa, Sri Lanka",,AD 700-750,"H:143 cm, W:44 cm, D:29.5cm","gold, bronze",
The Goddess Hathor,37542618,,,,YCA69261,,4974,Egypt,Upper Egypt / Temple of Amenhotep III (Thebes),18th Dynasty,,H:139.7cm,limestone,

And we’ve also put it on Github, just for s**ts and g*gg**s, at

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Day 3: Budai Hesheng

One of yesterday’s visitors, Mac, said a nice thing on Twitter, “today’s object of focus” about our piece with Hoa Hakananai’a, so we’re appropriating it. Thanks, Mac 🙂

Day three’s object of focus is the Budai Hesheng. We’re working on a continuation of yesterday’s theme of object location, both where it was made, and where it ended up. He started his life in the Henan Province in China, made in 1486. Fast forward to the 20th Century, and a chap called T. T. Woo sells him to Peter Sparks, from John Sparks Ltd. which has an office in Shanghai. The piece eventually ends up in London, possibly in the John Sparks showroom at 128 Mount Street in Mayfair, before it’s donated to the British Museum in 1937, perhaps due to the plinth being slightly damaged.

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Day 2 End Scene

Another day done. Wow. Nice to have some more visitors today! 

I was also struck as we worked on Lost & Stolen Friend that the removal of these giant things was a bit like the woodcutters chopping down ancient gigantic redwoods in California.

There are also a lot more pens in the box, including huge pink ones which are very fun.

And we also have a growing pile of crap somewhat hidden behind our desk.  I guarantee you there is one of these in every museum, no matter how small.

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Day 2, Display 2: Lost & Stolen Friend

With thanks to Catherine Jones and Luke Bacon for your collaboration.

Lost & Stolen Friend examines the journey and ambient environs of Hoa Hakananai’a, which was taken from Easter Island in 1868 and moved to London, to the British Museum. We’ve used sound to indicate place. Easter Island waves to visitor hubbub and a security announcement about suspicious characters.

Video of the experience:

Listen to the two audio tracks:


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String Map


With the objects in real world height order (tallest at the far end), we attempted to visualise the date data.

Down the lefthand side are the produced/created/made dates.

Down the righthand side the date they were acquired by the British Museum.

Produced/made/created dates

They range from 1500BC to 1950AD. We’ve added some dates in Sharpie now – which helps!

The dates were kind of tricksy. Obviously there are your BCs and ADs, some objects ‘made date’ span a century or two, while others are linked to a civilisation (Mexica for Xochipilli) or a dynasty (18th Egyptian dynasty for Hathor). Luckily brown paper, string and tape are very forgiving. You get the gist right?

Acquisition dates

Love that the tallest was the most recent acquisition, and shortest was the earliest. Not really relevant in any other space than here, just meant we needed a lot of string.

Hot pink

Glad I wore my hot pink trainers to go with the washi masking tape.

And Tom has made this most excellent fly-through:

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Our First Display

Here you can see the ten Museum in a Box objects arranged by size.

Also, if you’d like to visit, our front door says Civic Bureau.

In the time it’s taken me to upload this post on my phone, Harriet’s made the second arrangement, this time by height. Next, we’re making a simple timeline and Tom’s cutting out a bright pink world map.