Manchester Museum, part of the University of Manchester, collaborated with British Museum and reopened on February 18, 2023, by becoming the first-ever museum consisting of a permanent South Asia Gallery in the UK. The gallery will exhibit diverse histories and experiences of the South Asian diaspora, including Bangladesh.
The museum generates new ideas, events, performances, learning and public programmes. Co-curated with The South Asia Gallery Collective, the museum will celebrate the contribution of the South Asian community in the UK. It encourages the younger generations to learn more about South Asian heritage and culture. Some of the key highlights of the museum includes a rickshaw imported from Bangladesh; a saree passed down during the time of partition, and a newly commissioned mural from British artists, The Singh Twins, presenting an emotional map of the South Asian diaspora experience.
The gallery has been uniquely co-curated by the South Asia Gallery Collective, a group of 30 inspiring individuals, including community leaders, educators, artists, historians, journalists and musicians. The story-led design of the gallery will reﬂect multiple voices and perspectives of South Asia through six overarching themes: Past & Present, Lived Environments, Science & Innovation, Sound, Music & Dance, British Asian, and Movement & Empire.
In ‘Past & Present’, the public can explore the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation through a contemporary lens, which shares perspectives beyond archaeologists’ perceptions of that time. Additionally, ‘Lived Environments’ illustrates the importance of care within South Asian life and the impact of the British Empire on the region’s environments. Items on display include a ﬁlm showing the Bangladeshi environmental resistance through ﬂoating gardens.
‘Science & Innovation’ look at South Asian innovation through the contribution of three iconic individuals that have often been overlooked, including Satyendra Nath Bose, one of the seminal founders of modern quantum science. Moreover, ‘Sound, Music & Dance’ features various forms of musical expression, from ancient instruments such as the Hakgediya, a Sri Lankan conch shell, to the secret South Asian Daytimers raves of the 80s and 90s.
‘British Asian’ explores identity through various expressions from pop music to art and celebrates stories not usually represented by mainstream British Asian culture, including women and queer communities. Finally, ‘Movement & Empire’ looks at South Asian identity concerning voluntary and involuntary migration, including the impact of war and the trauma of Partition, one of the largest migrations in human history.
On this occasion, Nusrat Ahmed, South Asia Gallery Curator, Manchester Museum, said, “As a ﬁrst-generation British-born South Asian, it is fascinating to be part of such a ground-breaking project. The co-curated South Asia Gallery envisages a collaborative, iterative space that will generate new perspectives and connections. We hope to engage other diaspora communities on its opening and support its continual evolution. This personalised approach humanises the gallery, telling stories about real people and their objects.”
Hartwig Fischer, Director, The British Museum, added, “The British Museum is delighted to collaborate with Manchester Museum on the new permanent South Asia Gallery. We have learnt and will continue to gain knowledge from the communities and colleagues in Manchester on this innovative project. Creating partnership gallery spaces like this is a vital part of our national programmes work to share our collections with audiences across the UK.”