Museums “behind the scenes” : The Sikh Fortress Turban

This week I had the opportunity to accompany members of Birmingham Museum, 10 sixth formers from Nishkam High School, Sangat TV and some Nishkam Centre volunteers to the British Museum, London.

A day behind the scenes in London
A day behind the scenes in London

The behind the scenes experience of working with the British Museum for an exhibition Birmingham Museum are designing for next year was eye-opening. The main object for the exhibition is the “Sikh Fortress Turban”.

As this exhibition will be designed by Birmingham Museum, put on by Birmingham Museum and then sent on tour around the country, the responses the students gave about their first impressions and the importance of the Turban would impact the way the story would be told to everyone that viewed the turban in the future.

From strategic levels you could see the amount of planning that had gone on to prepare for the day. However, sitting there, speaking to the sixth formers it became clear how great an opportunity they had before them.

Usually when we view many things in the world we are aware of the storyteller behind it – be it a film, a news article, a campaign for a charity. Yet I never thought of the storytelling that goes on in a museum. When everything is old and fixed, it’s easy to forget that this history is really alive with characters and perspectives. That the same object can travel the world and be understood completely differently by each person that sees it.

I think the students took the opportunity to reflect and engage with history in a unique way. They explained the role and importance of a turban to them, in a way that those who have no real understanding of the Sikh faith may otherwise never know. They took the opportunity to make history relevant to today. That in itself may have been their biggest achievement.

I will post more information on this exhibition when the dates are set so that you can see what the finished product looked like. Keep a lookout 🙂

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