Brady Lecture 2016
“An equally valued coexistence of all world cultures”

Brady Lecture 2016: Neil MacGregor
Photo: Goethe-Institut London/Rajvi Vaya

Neil MacGregor, one of three founding directors of Berlin’s Humboldt Forum, spoke at the Goethe-Institut London’s annual Brady Lecture about the previous buildings on the site of the Berlin Stadtschloss, the Humboldt brothers, ‘Denkmalkultur’ (‘memorial culture’) in Germany, and colonialism.

On October 13th, Neil MacGregor gave his Brady Lecture talk entitled ‘One castle, one palace, two brothers, many museums: Berlin’s Humbolt Forum’. He described the Humboldt Forum as ‘one of the most exciting current big museum projects in Europe’, and presented some early glimpses into the museum’s future.  Its foundation on the site of the former Berlin Stadtschloss (city palace) has already caused much discussion and speculation.

At this sold-out event in the auditorium of the Goethe-Institut London, its director, Angela Kaya, and the German Ambassador to London, Dr Peter Ammon, greeted the audience before Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum, delivered his eagerly awaited Brady Lecture.

MacGregor’s talk spanned the history of the architecture of the Berlin Stadtschloss, its location at the site of political world events in the centre of Berlin, and the lives of the Forum’s namesakes: Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt.  He said that the Berlin Stadtschloss ‘…has always been a building of special meaning and symbolism’.  For example it was the balcony of the Berlin Stadtschloss from where Karl Liebknecht proclaimed his vision of a ‘Socialist Republic’ on November 9, 1918.

  • (From left) German Ambassador Dr. Ammon (German Embassy London), Goethe-Institut London director Angela Kaya and Head of Humboldt Forum Neil MacGregor. Photo: Goethe-Institut London/Rajvi Vaya
  • Head of Humboldt Forum Neil MacGregor presenting the future plans. Photo: Goethe-Institut London/Rajvi Vaya
  • Audience of the live streaming event in the library Photo: Goethe-Institut London/Rajvi Vaya
  • Neil MacGregor presenting the Brady Lecture 2016 Photo: Goethe-Institut London/Rajvi Vaya
  • There was a huge level of interest in this event. Photo: Goethe-Institut London/Rajvi Vaya
  • Brady Lecture 2016 im Goethe-Institut london Photo: Goethe-Institut London/Rajvi Vaya
  • Reception at the Brady Lecture 2016 Photo: Goethe-Institut London/Rajvi Vaya
  • Guests at the Brady Lecture Foto: Goethe-Institut London/Rajvi Vaya

With regard to the Forum’s future MacGregor said: ‘If the Humboldt Forum shows that there are no simple answers to our complex world, of which we are all citizens, then I think it will have achieved its purpose.’  The museum project is unique in that it aims to connect all world cultures with one another and give them equal ranking.  And Berlin, according to MacGregor, is the best place for such a global museum to exist, possibly because of the legacy of German history.  The Humboldt brothers, as two of the first ‘world citizens’, are for this reason appropriate namesakes.
The Goethe-Institut London holds its Brady Lecture every year in memory of the achievements of the academic and broadcaster Philip Brady (1932-97) who contributed remarkably to cultural exchange between Germany and Great Britain.  Angela Kaya emphasised the importance of Anglo-German cultural exchange in her welcoming speech: ‘During times in which cultural cooperation and mutual understanding are no longer to be taken for granted, enterprises such as the ‘Brady Lecture’ are more vital than ever before.’
There was a huge level of interest in this event, and so the talk was livestreamed into the Library of the Goethe-Institut London and also to the Goethe-Institut Glasgow where a big audience had gathered to follow this year’s Brady Lecture.