The India Museum Revisited

An objective survey of the museum's 80-year history based on evidence of the re-examined collections

About the Project

In a post-colonial era, the East India Company's museum has attracted commentators who have attributed to it motives unsupported by surviving archival and physical evidence. A new survey will establish an objective basis for future analysis.


At the dispersal of the India Museum in 1880, most of the objects came to the South Kensington (V&A) Museum, where they were listed. Addressing that and an earlier register, subsequent publications, the V&A's Collections Management System and the objects themselves, a consolidated account of the contents will be produced for the first time. The exhibits will be analysed, grouped according to their original function and their role within the museum; their sources will be charted and interrogated, and the intentions of the donors assessed.


There are two phases to the project. An initial aim is to produce a narrative account of the history of the India Museum and its collections, together with information on donors to the collection and sources (provenances) of the exhibits. This will form the basis of an online interactive reconstruction of the museum, illustrated with selected objects, to be mounted on the V&A’s web platform. Information gathered in the course of this exercise (i.e. from registers, labels and archives) will then be fed into the Collections Management System and the public ‘Search the Collections’ facility.


Information will be drawn together to enhance the V&A's internal Collections Management System. Appropriate additions may be made to the public 'Search the Collections' facility and a stand-alone page for the India Museum is envisaged for the V&A website, presenting as much contextual information as possible - museum guides, visitors' responses, illustrations of the displays and analyses of the collections - to complement the presentation of the surviving collections and to create a real sense of the collection's identity. A popular book is envisaged and public lectures will be presented.

The Team
Arthur MacGregor
Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professor

Arthur MacGregor spent much of his career as a curator at the Ashmolean Museum. There he developed an interest in the history of collecting, on which he has published widely and edits the Journal of the History of Collections. His last book, 'Company ... Read more

Neil Cullen
VARI Digital Producer
2 Asian Department Advisers
Susan Stronge
- Senior Curator
Nick Barnard
- Curator
Avalon Fotheringham
- Curator
3 Conservation and Collections Management Department Advisers
Pamela Young
- Collections Documentation and Procedures Manager
Neil Carleton
- Senior Documentation Officer
Background image: Gilt copper standard 'alam, pierced and engraved, presented to General Lake by the Mughal Emperor Shah 'Alam, India, ca.1804