As a publicly funded institution, the British Museum has a mission to draw in a public that might not otherwise visit a museum. For this purpose, it puts on exhibitions such as the series on emperors, for which a special exhibition space was created under the dome of the Reading Room. The first exhibition (followed by exhibitions on Hadrian, Shah Abbas and Moctezuma) was a show of 20 terracotta figures from the complex of the Chinese First Emperor's tomb, on display between September 2007 and April 2008. The result of years of planning and diplomatic negotiations, the exhibition proved to be a blockbuster success for the British Museum. This article is a revised version of the William Fagg Lecture delivered by the author in 2007. It addresses and compares the particular regimes of vision entailed in exhibition, rather than permanent museum display, and those that are assumed to have informed the creation of the First Emperor's tomb in the 3rd century BCE - the interaction between what can and what cannot be seen, ways of making the invisible apparent and of imagining it
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