Islamic & South Asian Collections in Manchester

Since April Jenny Norton-Wright, Early Career Curator at Manchester Museum, has been exploring the Islamic and South Asian collections across Manchester Museum, the Whitworth, and Manchester City Galleries ( Jenny’s research is part of a wider project to better document these collections, make them more accessible, and up skill curators to work more closely with them. The long term goal is to use this research and development to produce an exhibition in the not too distant future. The project is being generously funded by the John Ellerman Foundation (


Jenny Norton-Wright with Professor Tim Insoll, University of Manchester, and Dr Salman Almahari, Bahrain National Museum, discussing Manchester Museum’s Islamic collection [left]. Dr Salman was able to help identify a set of currency from Bahrain donated to Manchester Museum in 1926 [right].

The process of developing curatorial skills will include visits to sites of best practice in the UK and abroad, such as Birmingham Museum ( and Art Gallery or Museum für Islamische Kunst ( It will also include a series of workshops and an ambitious international conference. The first workshop, which we are currently planning, will take place this October and focus on key elements of Islamic and South Asian history and culture. The international conference will take place in late February 2017, it will feature speakers working on some of the most innovative Islamic and South Asian museum and gallery projects across the UK, Europe and further afield. Once plans are affirmed we’ll share them on the Manchester Museum website and other social media platforms.


If you’re looking for something to do this Friday evening do consider our After Hours: Warriors of the Plains event which starts at 6:30pm. For more information visit

During the event the Mustard Tree Drama Group will perform their play Home Is Where The Heart Is? and playwright and poet Anjum Malik will perform her monologue The Lost Salford Sioux. Both works have been inspired by the Warriors of the Plains exhibition and historic connections between Native North Americans and Greater Manchester. Any such dramatisations can be accused of lacking historicity, as Jane McGrath writes in relation to the historical dramas ‘Professional film reviewers are tame compared to the wrath of nit-picking historian’

A performance of This Accursed Thing at Manchester Museum. The piece dramatised Manchester's role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Taken in 2007.

A performance of This Accursed Thing at Manchester Museum. The piece dramatised Manchester’s role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Taken in 2007.

As a curator I could easily be accused of nit-picking but working with performers and writers provides an invaluable opportunity to introduce both emotion and experience. Tonight’s performers conducted extensive research and became thoroughly enthralled by Native North American history and culture. Combining this with their own experiences of change and continuity has produced truly captivating and sensitive pieces.

At Manchester Museum we’re always looking for innovative ways to further understanding between cultures. Drama, poetry and performance are invaluable tools in this endeavour.

A Mancunian Mantra: Part III

The Dalai Lama finally touched down at Manchester Airport yesterday. Over the next several days he will address a congregation of literally thousands at the MEN Arena.

Upon his arrival at the Lowry Hotel he greeted Salford mayor Ian Stewart with a customary Tibetan scarf ceremony. We have several textiles from Tibet in the Living Cultures collection, including a shawl and prayer flags.

The shawl was donated by Ms L Start and is expertly woven with geometric and animal designs. It is likely to date around the early 19th century.

Shawl. Tibet, Asia. Early 19th century. The Manchester Museum Living Cultures Collection.

The prayer flags were donated in 1955 by Prof. Rev Lawrence E Browne and depcit the wind horse, or lungta. In Tibetan Buddhist belief the wind horse represents good fortune.

Prayer flags. Tibet, Asia. 1955. The Manchester Museum Living Cultures Collection.

Here’s hoping the Dalai Lama’s visit is a successful one.

Way Out North West

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West company spent several weeks  in Salford in 1887 and the Manchester Museum has some very special, and unique, material relating to this occurance.


Buffalo Bill's Wild West show poster, 1899 (Not part of the Manchester Museum collection)


In pervious blog posts I’ve detailed this material ( but if you’d like to find out more I’ll be giving a talk this Friday at 1pm in the Museum as part of the Manchester Histories Festival. Please do feel free to drop in but do be aware that space is limited so be punctual!

Stephen Terence Welsh

Curator of Living Cultures

The Lost Salford Sioux

Several months ago now I had the good fortune to meet playwright Anjum Malik. Anjum was conducting research into the Native American performers who accompanied Buffalo Bill during their stay in Salford in the later 19th century. This research formed the basis of her play which was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 to celebrate the opening of the BBC North’s new premises at Salford Quays in 2011. I was able to share with Anjum some of the wonderful archival material in the Living Cultures collection related to this historical event, specifically the portrait of Oglala Lakota Chief Red Shirt as taken by Salfordian photographer C.R. Brandis.

Red Shirt, Oglala Lokota Chief, Late 19th Century, Salford, UK. The Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection, 2012.

Reverse of Red Shirt portrait showing Brandis stamp, Late 19th Century, Salford, UK. The Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection, 2012.

Excitingly the completed play will be broadcast this coming Sunday at 20:30. Anjum has kindly acknowledged the support of the Museum on the BBC Radio 3 webpage, for more information please follow the link below:

Do tune in!

Stephen Terence Welsh

Curator of Living Cultures

The Return of Red Shirt

The discovery of some archival material has caused somewhat of a  stir amongst local journalists recently ( The material consists of a letter addressed to a Mr. Brode written on Buffalo Bill official stationery and a photograph of an  American Indian called Red Shirt.

The Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection, 2011

The letter is dated 1888 and was written by Buffalo Bill’s secretary S. Hanfield.  From November 1887 Buffalo Bill’s Wild West company was encamped on the banks of the River Irwell, Salford, Greater Manchester, and would remain there performing to crowds of local people for several months.

Red Shirt, Oglala Lokota Chief, Late 19th Century, Salford, UK. The Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection, 2011.

Hanfield states in the letter that he also sent Brode a pair of moccasins  which were made at ‘Pine Ridge Indian Agency, Dakota, U.S.A.‘ and worn by Red Shirt during performances. Red Shirt was a Oglala Lakota American Indian and to this day his people live at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota. The photograph, taken by Salford photographer C.R. Brandis, is the only known image of Red Shirt taken during his time in Salford.

Moccasins, Late 19th Century, USA. The Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection, 2011.

In 1928 Mr. Freston, chair of The Manchester Museum Committee at the time, donated a pair of moccasins which he claimed belonged to an ‘Indian Chief’. It is possible that these moccasins are the ones mentioned in the letter.

Stephen Terence Welsh

Curator of Living Cultures