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'Connecting Stories: The Library of Birmingham and the British Library' exhibition now open
Image from the Dyche Collection, Library of Birmingham.

LONDON.- The Library of Birmingham and the British Library announce the opening of Connecting Stories: Our British Asian Heritage, (15 July to 4 November 2017, hashtag #connectingstories) an exhibition and community project celebrating the important role South Asian culture has played in forming Britain and Birmingham’s history and identity. The archive material in the exhibition focuses on the countries of present day India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Connecting Stories explores Britain’s enduring connections with South Asia, from historical trading links stretching back 400 years, to the impact of migration and settlement in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The rich and intertwining history of South Asia and the Midlands is being illustrated by photographs, letters, posters, paintings, documents, oral history, music and ephemera, demonstrating how libraries and archives can reveal untold and forgotten stories. Highlights include:

• The earliest minute book of the East India Company containing a list of its first investors, dating from 1599, and the starting point of close connections between Britain and South Asia

• A letter signed by Mahatma Gandhi and other South Asian people in Britain, pledging their support during World War I

• A 17th century map of the East Indies

• A rare 19th century board game reflecting Britain’s trading interests in Asia and elsewhere

• Pictures of South Asian people of all classes who came to Britain, including ayahs (nannies), the first Indian man to play cricket for England, a suffragette princess and Sake Dean Mahomed who set up the Hindoostanee Coffee House in London and became Shampooing Surgeon to George IV

• 1940s police reports on meetings of the Indian Workers Association and India League in Birmingham

• Community publications and campaigning materials charting the history of South Asians in the UK in the twentieth century

• Photographs showing protests and counter-protests in 1960s and 1970s Britain

• Poetry and art of Nobel prize-winner Rabindranath Tagore who visited Birmingham in 1930, the year his work was exhibited at the City Museum and Art Gallery

• Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Birmingham in 1931

• Visitors will be invited to tweet pictures of themselves using the hashtag #brumpeeps, building a digital picture of Birmingham’s communities

• A range of activities for children and families, including a family trail around the exhibition and three free family days.

In addition to archive material from the Library of Birmingham and the British Library, there is a series of photographic portraits of the local community featured in the exhibition, highlighting Birmingham’s rich diversity. Community engagement is integral to the project, and there is a series of workshops and family activities to complement the themes explored by the exhibition, and encourage the local community to add their own stories to the exhibition’s narrative.

Throughout 2017, Birmingham’s Utsav: Year of South Asian Culture is celebrating the contribution South Asian communities make to the city. Utsav, meaning festival/celebration, was officially launched on 18 January 2017 and will feature a wide variety of professional and community events and activities throughout the year.

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