Last December, Stephen Welsh (Curator of Living Cultures) and I went on a research trip to India for the Courtyard Project, focusing on the South Asia Gallery – a partnership gallery with the British Museum. Neither of us had visited India before, although we were familiar with other parts of South Asia. It was an exciting and hectic schedule and in two weeks we visited Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Kochi – so more or less each compass point of what is an amazing country. The focus of our visit was to meet with museum professionals, artists and to get a real feel for both the historic and archaeological wonders, as well as the contemporary culture of a country that is fast becoming an emerging global superpower. We were joined in Kolkata and Kochi (where we attended the Kochi-Muziris Biennale) by Manchester Museum Director Nick Merriman.
It would be impossible to do justice to the trip in one blog post (or even several) but I wanted to share images of some of the amazing things we saw in each of the places we visited. The overarching memory I think both of us have from the trip is the sheer vibrancy and variety that India, and all of South Asia, offers. The wonderful varied history of the region lives on in architecture, traditions and popular culture and sits comfortably alongside fast paced and growing industry and technology. We loved seeing the archaeological sites but also really appreciated the sheer amount of growth and technological advancement. We also acknowledged that in such a large country there is of course immense wealth alongside much poverty and at times, that was hard to see.
Images from Mumbai
We made some wonderful contacts during our trip, particularly from the Indian Museum in Kolkata, where Nick did a really well attended presentation on the Courtyard Project, following an excellent guided tour of the Museum. It was great to see so much enthusiasm for the planned gallery and we got a sense that everyone felt it was a great opportunity to showcase the history of the sub continent in a new and energetic way. We had many good suggestions on approaches to interpretation and ways we might tackle display and I have no doubt that we will share many more conversations about the project over the next few years.
Images from Kolkata
We are now in the process of fine tuning our thoughts and ideas about the trip and sharing them with RAA (South Asia Gallery designers) and Purcell (Courtyard Project designers). It’s difficult to entirely express what we saw but we definitely want to make an effort to capture at least some of our experiences in the new South Asia Gallery and to potentially broaden them with more contacts in different South Asian countries over the coming years.
Images from Delhi and Kochi