Here at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery we have recently started work on an exciting new project. Opening in February 2016, Faith in Birmingham will create a new gallery exploring the range of faiths practised in the city. We say opening in a loose sense, as the gallery will actually evolve more organically than that over the next 6 months.
Birmingham is one of the most diverse cities in Europe. According to the 2011 Census, just over 70% of the city’s population indicated an adherence to a religion. The faiths that are represented in the city include some that are lesser known such as Baha’ism, Jainism and Rastafari to name but a few. In our first year the gallery will focus on the six faiths with the largest representation; Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism. However, objects will change over the following two years to incorporate all the other religions, ambitions but possible!
The gallery will contain around 40-50 objects representing the six faiths. Although most are yet to be decided we do know that the gallery will include our iconic Sultanganj Buddha statue.
It will also include other items from the former ‘Buddha Gallery’ including the intricate Bodhisattva statue, and several other objects from Buddhist and Hindu faith. Once they have taken up residence in their new home, from September, we will be using the space to explore ideas about faith.
We will be asking questions of our visitors, seeking your ideas about what faith and religious practice mean to you and trialling different ways of displaying objects. The contribution of local faith groups to the gallery is incredibly important to the project so we are committed to consultation, research and conversation with our communities.
The ideas and stories of people who practice these faiths are really important to us and will feature heavily in the exhibition. We know the objects we will put display are not static, but alive and actively used as put of faith practice and worship. It is these stories we are really excited to convey.
We look forward to sharing the progress of the project over the next few months as it develops.
Image header (left to right):
- The Sultanganj Buddha statue, 7th Century, Birmingham Museums Collection
- Painting of Shri Guru Nanak Devji, modern, Birmingham Museums Collection
- Tile panel, 17th or 18th century, Ottoman, made in Damascus. Birmingham Museums Collection
- Crucifix inlaid with mother of pearl, 1850-1900, Birmingham Museums Collection
- Figure of Ganesh, 13th Century AD © Trustees of the British Museum
- Jewish Scroll, 19th Century Birmingham Museums Collection