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Manchester-India Museum Collaboration Goes to the Next Level

10th October 2019

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Two museums located in cities deeply affected by colonialism – Manchester Museum, part of The University of Manchester, and the Partition Museum (set up by The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust), Amritsar, India – have formed a partnership to work together over the next five years.

The announcement was made at the British High Commissioner’s Residence in New Delhi, where leaders from across India and Greater Manchester’s business and public sectors attended an event organised to celebrate and strengthen deepen Manchester-India ties.

Wendy Gallagher, Head of Learning & Engagement at Manchester Museum, part of the MIP delegation visiting India, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Mallika Ahluwalia, CEO, curator and co-founder of the award-winning Partition Museum, Amritsar.

The event formed part of a visit organised by the Manchester India Partnership (MIP) and fronted by Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester’s first elected Mayor. Partnering with the Department for International Trade, the MIP led an ambitious six-day schedule encompassing engagements in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi.

The overarching objective of the trip is to build on Greater Manchester’s award-winning India agenda and continue the city region’s drive to build an ever closer, mutually-beneficial partnership with one the world’s fastest growing economies.

Esme Ward, Director of Manchester Museum, said: “Whilst working with the Partition Museum it became clear we are fellow travellers with a shared vision and values. We recognise museums can make a difference by bringing new perspectives to the fore and look forward to continuing to learn from each other.”

Kishwar Desai, Chair of The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which set up the Partition Museum, said: “We truly appreciate the partnership we have developed with the Manchester Museum, especially as we explore different aspects of our joint colonial history. We look forward to fresh scholarship on an often contested past, fresh methodology of presentation and renewed understanding between the two countries through these two Museums.”

The collaboration follows the success of a co-curated exhibition between both museums ‘Jallianwala Bagh 1919: Punjab under Siege’ which has been shortlisted for an Asian Media Award. The exhibition coincided with the centenary of the massacre in April 2019, as well as the bicentenary commemorations for the Peterloo Massacre, and closed on 2 October 2019 – a date that marks 150 years since the birth of Mahatma Gandhi.

Revisiting the event, its causes and aftermath, the nuanced exhibition explored what we remember, how we remember it, and what we have forgotten, in India and the UK. Through ‘Jallianwala Bagh 1919: Punjab under Siege’ Manchester Museum took the lead on addressing the need for a Global South perspective on the use of violence by British forces against peaceful protestors and its legacy.

The exhibition evolved from a two-year long research by the Partition Museum team in India, locating long lost documents, and forgotten personal stories of the people who were present at the Bagh, in 1919. This is part of the special effort by the Partition Museum to be a ‘people’s museum’.

The need for such alternative perspectives is also inspiring the creation of the South Asia Gallery at

Manchester Museum, part of a £13.5 million transformation, which is due to open in 2021. The gallery is a landmark partnership with the British Museum and co-curated with members of Manchester’s South Asian diaspora communities.

The exhibition echoes The University of Manchester’s commitment to working internationally through new and innovative collaborations. The University has a long history of welcoming students from India, resulting in having one of the largest numbers of undergraduate and postgraduate students of Indian origin in the UK outside London.

Some of the ways Manchester Museum and The Partition Museum intend to develop their collaborative work for mutual benefit include:

- Exchanging knowledge on best practice for the display and treatment of collections
- Co-developing learning programmes with focus on secondary learning
- Supporting and facilitating international youth apprenticeships/exchanges
- Facilitating the exchange of research information about collections and exchanges of staff Including academics at The University of Manchester
- Exploring opportunities for collaboration on research programmes
- Developing a project exploring history of India and Britain’s relationship pre-Partition

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