Reviving Memories of Glorious Past

India and the World: A History in Nine Stories offers insights into two million years of history and provides a model for museums to share their collections with people across the world, some of whom may otherwise never have access to them

Who doesn’t remember the picture of a Dancing Girl – a naturalistic free-standing figurine of a woman flaunting a stack of bangles on her left arm – from our middle school history textbooks? Now imagine the copperbronze statuette made about 2500 BC and found in the ruins of Mohenjo Daro sharing the frame with a gypsum statue of a woman from Iraq made roughly around the same time. That is exactly how things are at the National Museum in Delhi, which is currently hosting the mammoth exhibition ‘India and the World: A History in Nine Stories.’ Conceived over a period of two years of intense planning and curatorial brainstorming, ‘India and the World’ is designed around a wide variety of objects from figurative representations and large-scale sculptures to inscriptions and coins, paintings, jewellery and tools. Each of these narratives begin from the ancient times and connects it to the modern 21st century. Jointly curated by a team in the UK and India, curators Jeremy David Hill and Beatriz Cifuentes Feliciano from the British Museum joined efforts with Naman P Ahuja, Associate Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and his curatorial assistant, Avani Sood, to develop this unique exhibition. Dr Hartwig Fischer, Director, British Museum, said it is a first of its kind project that establishes a dialogue between objects, cultures, institutions and the public to provide a new and rich perspective on moments in Indian history. “The wider, global context of these moments is suggested by objects from the British Museum, including a head of the Emperor Hadrian, one of the most famous Roman emperors, and the contemporary Throne of Weapons from Mozambique which comments on globalisation and empire but is ultimately a symbol of reconciliation and peace. We are delighted that the show was seen by over 200,000 visitors in Mumbai and is now available to audiences in Delhi. The British Museum is committed to sharing its collections as widely as possible and to working in partnerships which help audiences across the globe understand the world and their place within it,” he added. “One of the things that museums can and should do is build relations with other parts of the world even when governments are not necessarily talking to each other,” said Hill, Head of Research of the British Museum. Calling the exhibition a prototype on how museums across the world can collaborate to help visitors better understand the world they are living in, he said that the exhibition though various objects, that may or may not be a treasure, places Indian history in a larger, global perspective. “A particular object displayed at the exhibition will give visitors a perspective about Indian history in relation to what was going on in the world at the same time. For example, it teaches us about what was going on in the Egyptian Civilisation when the Indus Valley civilization was flourishing. This is not the history of India, but a history of India through objects that will hopefully generate debate and interaction within the museum space,” he added.

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