Monthly Archives: September 2015

In response to this week’s challenge of Change, I introduce some of the changing weather of Scotland!

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First Visit to India: Lucknow

Lucknow

I travelled to Lucknow by train. In the afternoon, I visited Bara Imambara which included in its grounds the Asfi Mosque, the Bhulbhulayah (also known as the Labyrinth) and the Bowli (a well). The Bara Imambara witnessed the Mutiny and suffered damage to its buildings (as most of Lucknow).

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This gave me the opportunity to witness some of the areas which British forces and rebels would have been involved in. Lucknow has a rich and complex history but there are many sites that relate to the Mutiny of 1857. This is clearly an important event in Lucknow’s history. The Bara Imambara allowed me to gain a better understanding of all the different cultures involve in the development of Lucknow and how they have left their marks through various structures and buildings. I then visited some of the older sections of Lucknow to witness some traditional work methods such as sewing, washing and ironing.

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I visited the La Matiniere College for Boys. This magnificent building was built as a palace for the resident Frenchman Major-General Claude Martin. In his will, he left the building to be used as a place of education. The building itself saw action during the 1857 Mutiny as it was overrun with Mutineers. I was awed by the plaques the school had raised to commemorate those who had died whilst defending the city. I learned that the boys who survived were sent to the Residency for safety.

Outside of the school, I was surprised to see a cannon which was used at the Battle of Seringapatam. La Martiniere was heavily damaged during the uprising and some of the damage was still evident. The mutineers who gained control of the school desecrated the remains of Major-General Martin. However, once the British regained control of Lucknow, his remains were recovered and reburied. It was interesting to see that his remains are still respected and cared for, even today.

I then moved onto the Residency, one of the most important buildings used during the Indian Mutiny. The buildings of the Residency came about after an officer was appointed as Resident of Lucknow. This was a strategically important area which was naturally defended on three sides. This was used by the British as a ‘safe house’ when the rebels overtook Lucknow.

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Much like the Red Fort, the scale of the area is immense. There were a number of buildings which, although ruined, were still standing. Bullet holes and cannonball holes were still clearly visible in many of the buildings. It was fascinating to see the areas where the British would have been defending their last post. I continued on to the museum. It was fascinating to read the stories of events which occurred during the Mutiny and within that very complex! In one room, there was a hole still in the wall which was left by cannon fire and had killed one of the ladies who lived there.

I continued on to visit Shah Najaf Imambara. This was a mosque that the British stormed during the Mutiny before they moved on to relieve those at the Residency. Rumour had it that mutineers were seeking sanctuary here so the British attacked from the back entrance. Today, it does not seem to bear any scars of this attack, however this is another fascinating piece of history.

The study trip was informative, interesting and exciting. There was a lot of new information which I picked up in regards to the Indian Mutiny and the way in which museums operate while learning about the different people and cultures that make up this diverse country.

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First Visit to India: Delhi

Last year, the British Council offered travel grants for non-national museums to travel to India. The purpose of this grant was to encourage museums to develop institutional links with museums in India and so share skills and create joint projects.

As a significant part of the Museum explores our connection with India, I felt this opportunity would allow The Black Watch Castle and Museum to develop new links with other museums based in India and develop our understanding of the part the Regiment played in India’s history. I hoped this would open a dialogue for possible exchanges of information, objects and ideas, and working together in partnership. My plans were to visit both Delhi and Lucknow, two areas in which The Black Watch saw action.

Delhi

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I spent much of my first day within the Red Fort. I could very easily have spent the entire trip within its walls! The Fort is vast and includes a number of buildings and museums. The Indian War Memorial Museum is housed within what used to be military barracks. They have a fantastic selection of objects used these to explore the Indian Mutiny and the roles of the British and the rebels.

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I was disappointed to learn that the use of cameras were not allowed in any of the museums I visited whilst in India. However, the museum hosted some interesting and valuable information. Much of this was focused on the Indian Mutiny and the roles of both the British and the rebels. As I entered, I noticed large interpretation panels which provided a brief history of the area I was about to enter. The museum had a wonderful selection of objects, textiles, documents and photographs. However, the interpretation only existed in the large introduction panels. The smaller text panels only provided the most basic information such as title and an accession number. I found it very difficult to place the objects into a contexts. In some areas dioramas were used, which provided much more information on events that happened within the mutiny. This was a fantastic opportunity to see how the ASI actually operated its museums and how objects were displayed and interpreted. Other than the guards, I saw no members of staff such as Visitor Assistants who would be able to assist me with any enquiries I had regarding the objects within the cases. This also gave me the opportunity to really understand how the mutiny was perceived by those in India. In short, it is indeed a rebellion against the British which was brutally put to an end. I found it a bit difficult to look past the damaged text panels, filthy glass and stifling atmosphere to actually focus on the objects. I was also quite horrified to learn that some of the original paintwork within the museum is in the process of being whitewashed. The museum itself was also extremely busy. It was excruciatingly difficult to get close enough to the exhibits to read the text panels or to even see the objects.

Unfortunately, due to the sheer number of people within the Fort, I was unable to visit the Mumtaz-Mahal which houses a number of artefacts. This museum has on display some of the arms used by both sides of the rebellion. This was disappointing but also understandable as I had arrived during one of the school holidays (even my guide had never seen the Fort so busy).

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I used the following day to visit several other areas of Delhi to better understand the architecture, culture and history. This allowed me to witness the influence British forces had as well as the changes they made to the areas of Delhi during the mutiny. The Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India (can accommodate around 25,000 worshippers) and stands by the edge of Old Delhi. Parts of the building were destroyed during the 1857 mutiny however the vast majority of the building survived unscathed. For five years after the Mutiny, the mosque was under military occupation. I was again taken aback by the scale of security in operation. However, once inside the grounds there were no security officials visible.

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I then moved on to Chandi Chowk which sits to the bottom of Jama Masjid. This is certainly one of the older areas of Delhi. I was informed that this area was almost decimated during the rebellion by the British forces and the Mutineers. However, many of the oldest buildings were indeed still standing, some of which dated back to the 17th century. Originally designed as large homes for rich owners, these have been split into smaller dwellings with shop fronts. The lanes are narrow and busy and have become almost a labyrinth.

I then continued to Raj Ghat, the memorial for Mahatma Ghandi. Unfortunately, the nearby museum was closed as it was a Monday. However, it was interesting to see that this area attracted a lot of families and that many children seemed to be encouraged to visit the site. There is an eternal flame that burns perpetually at one edge of the memorial. Although this area has been designed to accommodate tourists, there is again little signage and interpretation to explain more about the memorial and the gardens around it. I can only hope that the museum would have provided a lot more information about the surrounding area and the life of Ghandi.

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The following day, I visited some of the parliamentary buildings of India. This was quickly followed by a visit to the India Gate. This Gate acts as a memorial to the soldiers of the British Indian Army who died during the First World War. Names of the 13,000 soldiers have been inscribed onto the gate. This now also serves as the tomb for India’s Unknown Soldier. I was enthralled to learn that Delhi has a large memorial to the fallen of The First World War.

Lastly, I visited the National Gallery of Modern Art to meet with one of the assistant curators who had introduced me to some of her contacts in India. Her very informative assistant guided me around the galleries to explore the collections from the 1600s to the present day! The temporary exhibition followed the life of one artist but used her backstory to illustrate how this affected her art practice.

End of an Era!

That’s all folks! I have officially handed in my dissertation and have no work left to do for my Masters. All I can do now is sit back, wait and hope that I’ve done myself proud. The last two years have been pretty tough but I’ve made it through and feel more confident than ever in my abilities. It’s definitely been worth it. I’m saying goodbye to days of study (and Rudi sleeping on my homework) but I’m saying hello to much more now!

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