DECOLONIZING COLLECTIONS

About the research project

This project looks at the history of four collections of Indian coins currently held in the Ashmolean Museum, the British Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum. While they are named after four British male coin collectors – Jose Gerson da Cunha, H. Nelson Wright, Alfred Master and R. B. Whitehead, we know little about the Indian scholars who helped them in assembling these collections. This project aims to uncover the role of indigenous Indian scholars and collectors in creating these coin collections and in producing expert knowledge about the Indian past on their basis.

Research aims

Studying the role of the Indian scholars who helped British coin collectors, Jose Gerson da Cunha, H. Nelson Wright, Alfred Master and R. B. Whitehead, in assembling their coin collections.

  • Exploring the involvement of Indian scholars in collecting, investigating, and studying South Asian coins, and their relationships with the British collectors.
  • Reconstructing the collectors' networks that lie obscured behind these coin collections by exploring the networks of friendship, professional alliance and scholarly societies of these collectors and their contribution in co-producing knowledge about Indian history.
  • Contributing to the project of 'decolonizing' museums by telling a fuller history of South Asian colonial collections housed in various museums in the UK.
  • Disseminating this research through blog posts and other creative mediums.
  • Linking knowledge about these coin collections and collectors to further South Asian collections in the UK, enabling more UK museums to write richer and more inclusive narratives of the history of their collections.
  • Encouraging other museums to initiate projects investigating their collecting histories, and towards designing exhibits that tell a more critical story of their colonial-era collections.

Project funders

Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership
University of Exeter

 

Project start

1 October 2021

Project team

Shreya Gupta, project student

Professor Nandini Chatterjee, University of Exeter

Professor Nicola Thomas, University of Exeter

Dr Shailendra Bhandare, Ashmolean Museum

Outputs

Blog post on ‘Decolonising Collections: Investigating Knowledge Formation Networks in Colonial India Imperial & Global Forum, Centre for Imperial and Global History at the History Department, University of Exeter

 

 

Gold ‘Zodiacal’ Mohur of Jahangir. Inscription on the reverse alludes to Jahangir and the name of the mint in verse form.

Gold ‘Zodiacal’ Mohur of Jahangir (r.1605-1627), Sagittarius or the 9th month of the Persian Solar Calendar, struck at Agra in Islamic year AH1029 and regnal year 14. The inscription on the reverse alludes to Jahangir and the name of the mint in verse form. Ashmolean Museum.

 

Two silver rupee coins with invocation ‘God is great, bright be His glory’ on obverse

Silver rupee of Akbar (1556-1605), struck at Agra in the Khurdad month of 47th regnal year, with invocation ‘God is great, bright be His glory’ on obverse. The reverse unusually bears the denominational term ‘Rupayah’ in addition to the date and mint details. Ashmolean Museum.