The Future of South Asian Collections Conference: UK and South Asia perspectives

The Future of South Asian Collections Conference: UK and South Asia perspectives, will take place from Wednesday 30th April to Friday 2nd May 2014 at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.

Conference organisers: Emily Crane (UEA) & Diana Grattan (SADACC)


There are numerous and varied South Asian collections held both in the UK and in South Asia.  They range from public or government institutions to privately held collections; some are world renown and firmly established, whilst some are newly formed or a small part of bigger institutions.  Moreover, there are some collections that are well-funded but, certainly within the UK, ever-increasing financial restraints have become a major issue.

Over the last decade there have been shifts in museum practices and thinking about these particular types of collections.  Issues of conservation, documentation, storage and research remain pragmatic concerns for many. Recent collecting practices have tended to be either non-existent, predicated on existing material, in response to particular audiences or linked to specific exhibitions.  Museums have attempted to deliver programmes in response to different audiences, with changing expectations and levels of participation.  Does the breadth and complexity of these issues perhaps require the need for an increasingly collective and comprehensive approach?

The conference celebrates the affiliation of the South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection (SADACC) with the Sainsbury Institute for Art (SIfA) at the University of East Anglia. The notions of 'craft' and 'world art' are explored across the SIFA institutions.  Craft has been considered as the interrelation of form, function, material, process and meaning, mediated through social, economic and cultural influences. Craft is also inextricably linked to concepts of skill and craftsmanship. This understanding of ‘craft' has certainly informed the selection and collection of objects that now form the South Asian Decorative Arts and Craft Collection.  Is it, therefore, a useful device to interpret and consider objects found in South Asia Collections? Furthermore, how do notions of 'craft' relate to debates surrounding 'world art'?

This conference aims to promote collaboration and exchanges between professionals working with collections of South Asian arts and crafts, nationally and internationally.  By sharing knowledge and experiences, it is envisaged that the conference will build and strengthen networks, and foster new partnerships.

Some questions for consideration

How can contemporary collecting practices reflect a considered approach to socio-economic, cultural, historical and political complexities?

In what ways can institutions reconcile historical legacies, current concerns and future aspirations?

Can exchange programmes between the UK and South Asian institutions, mutually benefit the improvement of knowledge and museum practices?

How do repatriation debates relate to material from South Asia?

What can be done to foster relationships between university researchers and museum collections?

With the increased interest in working with communities to inform collections and displays, is it pertinent to ensure critical reflection on these practices?

Does the acknowledgement that museums can and should play an active role in society, have a particular impact on South Asian collections?

With increasing pressures on resources, both human and financial, how can thorough documentation, and archival considerations, be achieved?

How can networks encourage the sharing of knowledge and better awareness of collections nationally and internationally?

Can and do objects have an effect on notions of identity?

Is 'craft' a useful device to interpret and consider objects found in South Asia collections?  

How do South Asian notions and experiences of 'craft' differ from those in the UK, and how is this relevant to contemporary museums?

How do notions of 'craft' relate to debates surrounding 'world art'?

How do different audiences respond to objects from South Asia?

What is the future for these collections in private, regional, national and university museums?

The conference will open with a keynote address given on Wednesday 30th April by Dr Tasneem Mehta (Managing Trustee & Honorary Director of the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai).

Speakers also include:

Zeb Bilal (Beaconhouse National University and Lahore Museum); Dr Sandra Dudley (Senior Lecturer, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester); Dr Mark Elliot (Senior Curator of Anthropology, Museum of Archeaology and Anthropology, Cambridge); Dr Fiona Kerlogue (Deputy Keeper of Anthropology, Horniman Museum); Rachel Grocke (Deputy Curator, Durham University Museums); Dr Henrietta Lidchi (Keeper of World Cultures, National Museums of Scotland); Prof John Mack (Sainsbury Institute for Art); Minhazz Majumdar (Independent Arts Advisor);  Emma Martin (Head of Ethnology and Curator of Asia Collections, National Museums Liverpool); Nilhesh Mistry (Curator of International and Decorative Arts, Cartwright Hall, Bradford); Alnoor Mitha (Asian Art Triennial, Manchester); Prof Anne Morrell (Calico Museum,Ahmedabad); Dr Richard Mulholland & Anne Bancroft, (Paper Conservators, Victoria & Albert Museum); Dr Julia Nicholson (Pitt Rivers Museum); Dr Daniel Rycroft (Lecturer of South Asian Arts and Cultures, University of East Anglia); Dr Veronica Sekules (Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts); Dr Manvi Seth (Head of Museology Department, National Museum Institute of History of Art, Conservation and Museology, National Museum, New Delhi); Deborah Thiagarajan (Director and Founder, Dakshin Chitra, Chennai); Friederike Voigt (Senior Curator for Middle East and South Asia, National Museums of Scotland); and Jane Weeks (British Council).


Registration for the The Future of South Asian Collections Conference: UK and South Asia perspectives is now closed.

For any enquiries relating to the registration processes please contact

Conference Programme

Download a copy of the provisional conference programme. Please note that some of the details on the programme may change.

Registration and collection of conference packs will take place on Wednesday 30th April, 4:00pm at the School of Art History and World Art Studies, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (SCVA), UEA. This will be followed by a Welcome and Keynote Address, 6:00pm at SADACC, Norwich. Transport from UEA will be provided, leaving at 5:30pm. 

Thursday 1st and Friday 2nd May, proceedings will start at 9:00am and conclude by 5:30pm.



For further information about the participating institutions, please click on the above logos.