Thursday, 13 July 2017

Connecting Stories: Our British Asian Heritage

Exhibition opening at the Library of Birmingham on 15 July

This family-friendly exhibition, launching on 15 July, will tell the story of the close connections between Britain and India, Pakistan and Bangladesh from 1600 to the present day. It will show how those connections have influenced our food, culture, fashion, politics and heritage and made us who we are today.

The exhibition continues the partnership between the British Library and the Library of Birmingham, bringing together their rich and complementary collections to illustrate this important but little-known aspect of British and local history. There will be over 100 exhibits which highlight many different voices from the past.

Princess Sophia Duleep Singh is one of many people who will feature in the exhibition. Image from IOR/L/PS/11/52, P1608 (Image courtesy of the British Library Board)

Exhibits include letters, posters, photographs, advertisements, surveillance files, campaigning materials, oral history, and even a children’s game and a 19th century paper bag for Indian sweets. I and my co-curator of the exhibition, John O’Brien, hope that the variety of exhibits will prompt visitors to consider the many ways that history is recorded and how gaps and silences can be filled.

The exhibition aims to capture Birmingham's importance in global trade and as a centre of industry.

Mirror of British Merchandise, 1888 (Image courtesy of the British Library Board)

The Library of Birmingham collections include stunning images by local photographers past and present which will be showcased in the exhibition. The image below is from the Dyche Collection, 1950-c1975, MS 2912. (Image courtesy of the Library of Birmingham)

Capturing images of Birmingham’s richly diverse community is an important part of the exhibition and engagement programme. A selection of photographs will be included in the exhibition to give a vivid picture of Birmingham and all the people who live there today. Anyone in Birmingham can get involved now by sending their photograph via Twitter #brumpeeps. Exhibition visitors are also invited to ‘make their mark’ and share their own stories.

Please see the Library of Birmingham’s website for activities throughout the duration of the exhibition, such as family days, oral history training and talks at local libraries.

The exhibition and community engagement programme have been generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Penny Brook
Head of India Office Records at the British Library and exhibition curator

Further information

Asians in Britain web pages

The Library of Birmingham’s website for details of opening hours and events


Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Three Royal Asiatic Society Persian manuscripts digitized by Cambridge University Library

By Rachel M. Rowe

Detail from 56v of the Gulistan (RAS Persian 258)

This month sees the launch of our Royal Asiatic Society collection with three remarkable Persian manuscripts currently on long loan to the University Library. The Shāhnāmah of Muhammad Juki was copied in Herat between 1440-5 and is considered to be one of the finest Timurid manuscripts of the 15th century.

The Gulistan of the poet Sa’di was completed in 1583 in Fatehpur Sikri. It is noted not only for its exquisite paintings of birds and animals which decorate the pages of the text but also for its colophon portrait which depicts the eminent scribe Muhammad Husayn al-Kashmiri known as Zarrin Qalam (Golden Pen) and the artist, Manohara as a youth.

The Kitab-i Mathnawiyyat-i Zafar Khan is a beautifully illustrated autograph copy of the verses of Ahsanallah b. Abu 'l-Hasan, entitled Zafar Khan, written in Lahore in 1663.

All three manuscripts are available to view on Cambridge Digital Library: