Manchester Museum’s new South Asia Gallery

Shefali Saxena Wednesday 14th December 2022 08:18 EST

Manchester Museum, which is set to re-open to the public on 18 February 2023, following a £15 million transformation. The museum reopens its doors with a mission about levelling up for culture and putting the diverse communities of Manchester at the centre of programming, including its South Asian diaspora. 


Manchester Museum will be the first-ever museum to have a permanent South Asia gallery in the UK, as a part of a landmark partnership with the British Museum. The gallery will bring forth diverse histories and experiences of the South Asian diaspora living in Manchester and will generate new ideas, events, performances, learning and public programmes in the museum. Curated by Nusrat Ahmed, and co-curated with The South Asia Gallery Collective, a group of 30 inspiring individuals including community leaders, educators, artists, historians, journalists and musicians, the gallery will be a celebration of the contributions of the South Asian community in the UK. The new South Asia Gallery will be the UK's first permanent space dedicated to the lived experience of the South Asian community.

Showcasing over 140 historic artefacts from the collections of the Manchester Museum and British Museum, alongside new contemporary commissions and personal objects provided by the Collective, the gallery will present a range of personal stories that provide visitors with a window into South Asia. The gallery’s story-led design will reflect multiple voices and perspectives on South Asia through six overarching themes: Past & Present, Lived Environments, Innovation & Language, Sound, Music & Dance, British Asian, and Movement & Empire. 

Nusrat Ahmed, the gallery’s Community Producer is a first-generation, British-born South Asian, who could discuss her hopes to engage further diaspora communities through the gallery and support its continual evolution through her role and the personal objects in the collection.

Nusrat Ahmed told Asian Voice: “I am a first-generation British-born South Asian person and when I was growing up I felt that I didn’t belong in museums.  If I had the opportunity of seeing myself within museum spaces, through the stories being told, then finding a way to connect to my heritage would have been far easier.  Representing South Asian diaspora and preserving South Asian history in museums is long over-due.  

“My father came to the UK after the Partition of British India into India and Pakistan. I am deeply moved that I have the opportunity to tell his story in the new South Asia Gallery at Manchester Museum. Parts of the gallery grapple with difficult subjects, but by telling and learning from these stories I hope we can work towards a brighter future.

“We hope to engage further diaspora communities to support the South Asia Gallery’s continual evolution, telling stories about real people and their objects. By drawing upon collections and diverse cultural perspectives, museums can help to build better understanding between cultures and become more relevant to the communities they serve.”

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