Manchester Museum To Get South Asia Gallery

Britain knows that its history cannot be understood without reference to its century-old overseas connections (thanks to colonialism). Britain’s relations with its former colonies in South Asia and other parts of the world are based on the cultural exchanges that took place in the 20th century. Both Britain and its former colonies have taken a number of steps to properly preserve documents related to their cultural ties.
Recently, Britain’s Manchester Museum has announced that it will spend GBP 5 million to set up a permanent South Asia gallery for showcasing the history and culture of the ‘under-represented’ region. Speaking at a press conference earlier this week, Museum Director Nick Merriman said that the construction work of the 350sqm gallery would be completed by the end of 2020. He also said that the British Museum would help Manchester Museum, which is a part of the University of Manchester, build the gallery.
Merriman expressed hope that the gallery would help visitors and scholars explore the relationship between UK and South Asia. “People of South Asian descent comprise 11% of the city’s population. But only 4% of the museum’s visitors are South Asians. So, we are trying to understand why they didn’t visit us… maybe they felt there was nothing relevant to them,” added the director.
Merriman explained that presence of a large South Asian population in Manchester is because of the strong historic links between the industrially rich heritage city and the Indian sub-continent through the textile trade. “However, their culture and history has been under-represented and the South Asia gallery provides an opportunity to address this,” he told the press.
The director revealed that the gallery would concentrate mainly on history and culture of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, with a specific focus on diaspora communities in Manchester. Meanwhile, Merriman welcomed the Indian Museum’s decision to help Manchester Museum in showcasing the history and culture of South Asia and also of the Asia-Pacific region.
As the museum in Manchester plans to launch a temporary exhibition archiving the experiences of the Partition-hit South Asian community residing in the British city on the occasion of 70th anniversary of India’s Partition in 2017, the Indian Museum has agreed to organise an event, named ‘Memories of Partition’. As a part of the event, narratives of those, who faced the epoch-making event in 1947, will be exhibited. “The people, who experienced Partition, are getting older now and we must, for the community around Manchester, record those memories. We will record those narratives, some on audio and some on video and make an exhibition of around eight of those key stories and archive all of them,” stressed Merriman.

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