Migration & Manchester Museum

Over the past several months I’ve been recording more films that focus on the role museums can play in better understanding migration. This is part of Manchester Museum’s thematic collecting project, a project that is seeking to revitalise museum collecting by centring it on immediate contemporary issues [http://bit.ly/16WpOEz]. The films feature University of Manchester students, both past and present, who are passionate about both migration and the changing nature of 21st century museums.

In this first film Benjamina Dadzie shares her thoughts with us about using museum collections and spaces to contend with challenging issues and stimulate conversation.

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 (http://bit.ly/1sYozk4). 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 (http://bit.ly/1u7qJtV).

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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 (http://bit.ly/14pvA0a) and Art Gallery or Museum für Islamische Kunst (http://bit.ly/1Wuul8Q). 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.

Petra, Borders & Boundaries

This is the last film in my current thematic collecting and migration series, many thanks to Dr Petra Tjitske Kalshoven, lecturer in Social Anthropology at The University of Manchester, for participating.

In 2016 I’ll be back with more thematic collecting films!

Tracey, Manchester & Multiculturalism

Here’s my second Thematic Collecting short film featuring Tracey Zengeni. Tracey’s collaborated with Manchester Museum over several years on a multitude of projects and it was fascinating to hear her thoughts:

I’ve got one more film to share with you from this current series so watch this space!

Isabelle, Museums & Migration

As part of our Thematic Collecting project I’ve captured the thoughts and opinions of several of Manchester Museum’s collaborators. First up is Isabelle Cox:

Over the next few of days I’ll upload a couple more, watch this space!

Student Engagement with the Living Cultures Collection

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Students from the East Asian Studies programme explore highlight objects from the Museum’s Chinese collections led by Stephen Welsh, Curator of Living Cultures and Dr Pierre Fuller, Lecturer in East Asian History

Students are introduced to the Museum’s collections as part of formal teaching programmes in several different departments across the university. Our curators and conservators deliver teaching on many courses, both in the classroom and in the museum itself. In recent visits to the Living Cultures stores from students on the Archaeology, Social Anthropology and East Asian Studies courses, we have aimed to inspire students to carry out research using the collections. There are many objects in the collections which would make fascinating topics for original research, as we only know a very small amount about their histories.

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Christian Pollard, (pictured, left), visited the Anthropology Collection stores as part of a seminar for the East Asian Studies programme in December 2014:

“We got to see some really interesting artefacts enhanced by having the curator there to guide us through the objects. It was certainly a worthwhile trip for anyone who is simply interested in finding out more about history or for someone thinking about a dissertation topic in need of an interesting, and maybe even unstudied, artefact.

Thank you very much for having us, I really enjoyed being able to get a look at something physical as opposed to documents.”

Students also engage with the museum collections through work placements, volunteering or as part of extra-curricular societies. Recently, I was asked to run a workshop for ArchSoc, the University of Manchester’s Archaeology Society, to introduce cataloguing and collections management to a small group of undergraduate students from across three year groups. As well as showing the group a small section of our stores ‘behind the scenes’, I also gave them the chance to have a go at writing a simple catalogue record for an object. This allowed us to discuss the importance of recording context and provenance, and of effective collections management in the museum setting.

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Students from the University of Mancheser’s Archaeology Society have a go at cataloguing using objects in the collection

There are many ways in which the work of the Museum overlaps and collaborates with its academic colleagues in other departments in the University; from showcasing research through the temporary exhibition programme, to hosting talks, conferences and events. Our collections include field collections from Manchester’s academics and students, and are informed by their research. We aim to engage and inspire students wherever possible, showing that there are many different ways to use the collections, and many relevant contemporary conversations to be had around our historic objects.

Making Migrants: The British Empire and Mass Migration

Given the anti-migration rhetoric currently dominating the political discourse you’d be forgiven for believing that Britain has always existed in a state of perpetual ‘splendid isolation’. The truth is the British Isles geographically, economically, culturally and politically have always been a beacon for migrants both historically and contemporarily. Concomitantly Britain as a former imperial power has instigated and enforced migration in other parts of the world. One of the most critical examples of this was the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. For a brief overview of this world changing event the following video produced by The Economist should help:

The partition of India and Pakistan resulted in an estimated 15 million people being displaced with another 500,000 dying as a consequence of conflict. The speed with which Britain drew up partition plans and then subsequently withdrew has been cited as one cause for the violence. With ongoing civil unrest and political instability post-partition many people sought refuge by migrating to Britain. Following a war between East and West Pakistan in 1970-71, the result of which was the creation of Bangladesh, many Bangladeshis fled to Britain.

Astonishingly this globally significant event which resulted in unfathomable mass migration and interminable conflict is left relatively unexplored in UK museums. As part of our thematic collecting project (http://bit.ly/16WpOEzI’ll be exploring Britain’s role in instigating such migration and how it has impacted on collections and communities in Manchester. Soon I’ll be shooting a short film which will examine the effect partition had on diversifying Greater Manchester.