To celebrate International Archives Day on 9th June 2017, with a theme this year of “Archives, Citizenship and Interculturalism”, we wanted to tell you about Utsav and our upcoming exhibition ‘Connecting Stories, Our British Asian Heritage’!
Throughout 2017 Birmingham will be celebrating ‘Utsav, South Asian Culture’ and the contribution that South Asian communities have made to the city. Utsav, meaning festival/celebration, was officially launched on 18 January 2017 and will feature a wide variety of professional and community events and activities throughout the year.
The Library of Birmingham and the British Library have won Heritage Lottery Fund support to stage a major exhibition and public programme celebrating South Asian culture, called ‘Connecting Stories, Our British Asian Heritage’, a partnership project celebrating the important role South Asian culture has played in forming Birmingham’s history and identity, and which will feature archives from the wonderfully rich collections held here in Archives & Collections at the Library of Birmingham and the British Library.
A selection of the material that will feature in the exhibition!
At the heart of the project is a major exhibition, Connecting Stories: Our British Asian Heritage, which will open on the 15th of July at the Library of Birmingham. This will explore Britain’s South Asian heritage, examining the contribution made by South Asian people to Birmingham and the UK, and featuring contributions from local communities as they are invited to share their stories in their own words.
The exhibition will reflect on the political context of Britain’s long relationship with South Asia, recognising turbulent times in our shared history, as well as celebrating the contribution of South Asian culture to the UK’s heritage, with a particular focus on Birmingham. It will explore Britain’s enduring connections with South Asia, from historical trading links stretching back 400 years, to the impact of migration and settlement in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Connecting Stories will focus on the countries of present day India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The rich and intertwining history of South Asia and the Midlands will be illustrated by photographs, letters, posters, paintings, documents and ephemera, showing how libraries and archives can reveal untold and forgotten stories. Highlights include:
• The first list of subscribers in the earliest East India Company minute book, 1599, the starting point of close connections between Britain and South Asia.
• A letter signed by Mahatma Gandhi and a group of other South Asian people in Britain, pledging their support during World War I.
• Maps of South Asia dating back to the 17th Century.
• A rare 19th century game reflecting Britain’s trading interests in Asia and elsewhere.
• Pictures of South Asian people of all classes who came to Britain, including ayahs (nannies) a Suffragette princess and Sake Dean Mahomed who set up the Hindoostanee Coffee House in London and became Shampooing Surgeon to George IV.
• 1940s police reports on meetings of the Indian Workers Association and India League.
• Community publications and campaigning materials charting the history of South Asians in the UK in the twentieth century.
• Photographs showing protests and counter-protests in 1960s and 1970s Britain.
• Poetry and art of Nobel prize-winner Rabindranath Tagore who visited Birmingham in 1930, the year his work was exhibited at the City Museum and Art Gallery.
Help us to celebrate “Archives, Citizenship and Interculturalism” this year – come and see our exhibition!
Tom Epps, Cultural Partnerships Manager
Library of Birmingham