The Art of Museum Diplomacy

Ebrahim Khadem Bayat

MAN OF THE WORLD: A 17th century wall painting shows Shah 'Abbas welcoming foreigners to his court

When western diplomats seek concessions from Iran, they typically dish out tough rhetoric and threaten sanctions. Neil MacGregor, the cherub-faced director of the British Museum, uses a more refined arsenal: cultural relics and priceless artifacts. In January, MacGregor traveled to Tehran to finalize the loan of treasures from eight of Iran's best museums. In exchange, he promised to loan the National Museum of Iran the Cyrus Cylinder, a 2,500-year-old clay cylinder inscribed with decrees from the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great. Following a request by the Iranian Vice President's office, he also vowed to raise international awareness of damage...

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