Anglo Sikh Wars: Battles, Treaties and Relics 1845-1849

The project by the Sikh Museum Initiative (SMI) focused on the Anglo Sikh Wars which took place in India and Pakistan between 1845 and 1849. It was the first major project in the UK which considered the British and Sikh perspectives on this important chapter of Anglo Sikh history. We undertook an in-depth programme of researching and documenting artefacts and relics held at museums in the UK. This included collaborate working with Regimental Museums as well as the more famous ones. Our volunteers and core team ensured that the project was a great learning and engaging experience. These museums held information and commemorated the Anglo Sikh Wars independently but were less known to the Sikh community or to the wider public. We researched images and paintings held in larger institutions as well including the Victoria and Albert Museum, British Library, National Army Museum and Royal Collection. The Anglo Sikh Wars exhibition took place from 11 March to 4 June 2017 at the Newarke Houses Museum in Leicester. There were 38 objects on display including 12 portraits. Many of the objects were from the actual battlefield of the wars. The museum is part of Leicester City Council’s Museum service. The location was central in terms of proximity to the city centre together with it being opposite the city’s De-Montfort University. The exhibition was supported with six lectures undertaken by experts in the field. This was together with three arts and crafts activities which allowed us to demonstrate how 3D printing can be utilised to share and understand heritage.

Technology

We utilised 3D technology and augmented reality to recreate lost heritage related to the Anglo Sikh Wars. The touchscreen monitor (as used in the King Richard III exhibition) was employed to showcase several objects including the famous Kohinoor Diamond, the sword of Napoleon Bonaparte (used by Henry Hardinge) at the battle of Ferozeshah, a Sikh helmet, a Sikh flag, a breastplate, a shield and another antique sword. Four of these objects were used in the augmented reality display which enabled visitors to see and manipulate the angle of the exhibits on a large screen. This was the first time Sikh objects were digitised, recreated and brought to life.

Feedback

The exhibition was a huge success with more than 12,300 visitors seeing the displays. We also held a parallel exhibition at the University of Leicester during the same time, which showcased pages from the Illustrated London News from the time of the wars. The Special Collections department of the university’s library hosted the display.

It became clear from visitor comments and feedback, that a hands-on approach of playing and understanding heritage through this type of digital output was very popular. Feedback from visitors included:

"The technology used in this exhibition made it more fun!"
"Loved the Augmented reality feature"

Engagement

We engaged with local communities and ensured that the project reached not only the Sikh community but the wider public in general. The project was featured widely in the media including on BBC, ITV, several Sikh Channels (Sikh Channel, KTV, and Akaal Channel), as well as several BBC radio programmes and Demon FM (local Leicester station). The project was also filmed for the Celebrity Antiques Roadtrip programme (BBC 2). The media coverage was also prevalent in print and online media with coverage in Leicester Mercury, Shropshire Times and in India, where it was featured in the Hindustan Times and Tribune India. Social media was also used to promote the project and many people shared our posts and videos increasing our reach to a greater audience.

Taking it on the road

The project was then taken on the road with the Anglo Sikh Wars pop-up exhibition, created to reach communities which could not see the exhibition at Newarke Houses Museum. We created a programme of events and undertook lectures and community activities which led to the Anglo Sikh Wars pop-up exhibition being exhibited at Sikh Temples, in a shopping centre, football club, at a book launch, academic research conferences as well as at a Medal Society Convention. As a result, we undertook 39 engagement sessions across the UK where the project was seen or discussed. H.R. H the Prince of Wales visited Leicester for a British army engagement day where he was also made aware of the project and its work.

The project has helped formulate a better understanding of these forgotten battles and it has enriched communities in terms of providing them with a better understanding of one another. People of all ages came to see or know about the project in a multitude of ways and as a result, the project reached over three million people through the various channels at our disposal. The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and supported by Leicester City Council with the exhibition being undertaken at Newarke Houses Museum in Leicester.

Extra media