Britain’s Manchester Museum to launch permanent South Asia gallery in 2020

Kolkata, Dec 7 (IANS) Britain’s Manchester Museum plans to inaugurate a 5 million pound permanent South Asia gallery in 2020 to showcase the history and culture of the “under-represented” region, its director Nick Merriman said here on Wednesday.

The 350 square metre gallery will come up at the museum (part of the University of Manchester) in collaboration with the British Museum, he said.

“By exploring the relationship between UK and South Asia, it will help in engaging with the city-region’s diverse communities, day visitors and tourists. People of South Asian descent comprise 11 per cent of the city’s population. But only four per cent 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,” Merriman said.

Presence of a large south Asian population is mainly due to the strong historic links between the industrial heritage-rich city of Manchester and the Indian sub-continent through the textile trade, he said.

“However, their culture and history has been under-represented, and the South Asia gallery provides an opportunity to address this,” said Merriman.

The gallery will focus on the histories and cultures of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, from prehistory to modern day, with a specific focus on diaspora communities in Manchester.

Merriman was speaking about the forthcoming gallery at the Indian Museum here. He also discussed the idea of future partnerships with the Indian Museum, the oldest and the largest multipurpose museum not only in the Indian subcontinent but also in the Asia-Pacific region.

He also discussed Manchester Museum’s unique “inflatable museum” concept for public outreach with Indian Museum authorities who have evinced a keen interest in the idea of using temporary, inflatable, bouncy structures resembling the museum to reach out to those who can’t come to the museum site.

In consonance with the UK and India Year of Culture and the 70th anniversary of Partition in 2017, the Manchester Museum will also launch a temporary exhibition archiving the experiences of the Partition-hit South Asian community residing in the English city.

Christened ‘Memories of Partition’, the exposition will record narratives of those who faced the epoch-making event in 1947.

“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,” said Merriman.

He also said his city’s Royal Exchange Theatre is working with South Asian artistes to dramatise some of those stories.

–IANS

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