Kids Corner


Abbotsford Museum Exhibits Award-Winning Sikh Displays





The Sikh Heritage Museum in Abbotsford (British Columbia, Canada) is building on the success of its recent exhibits with a new display that is also trying to make an impact.

The museum was recently named one of 2016's most influential; its exhibit on the contribution of Sikh-Canadians to the country's efforts in the First World War won it an Award of Merit from the British Columbia Museums Association.

"[That exhibit] created bonds and friendships and dialogues that normally would not have happened," co-curator Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra said.

"We had members of our local legion here in Abbotsford who started having conversations [after visiting the exhibit] with a lot of ex-veterans and a lot of soldiers from Punjab."

But the museum's significance doesn't end with what visitors learn inside.

Sharanjit Kaur credits the museum's impact to the first-hand experience of learning about history in a place that is itself historically significant.

It's housed within the Gur Sikh Gurdwara in Abbotsford, a national heritage site with over 100 years of history and the oldest Sikh place of worship of its kind in Canada. It was established in 1911 and exists in its original state to this day.

"It's not something that's adjacent to, it's not something that's happening outside of whatever else we're learning, it's actually interspersed in that history of Canadian discourse," Sharanjit said.


The museum's current exhibit applies a feminist perspective to traditional Sikhism.

One piece looks at the five physical markers carried by an initiated Sikh-Khalsa, such as the steel bracelet known as a karra, and re-imagines them from a feminist point of view.

"How does that re-conceptualize the way we associate Sikhism the faith as very patriarchal? Which, in fact, it's not supposed to be," said Sharanjit.

No matter the subject the museum is tackling, she believes it, and others, have a unique ability to teach.

"Museums in general are getting a much larger capacity to enact change ... to evoke historical discourse, [to change] ignorant perceptions of people or communities or groups, and [at] this site, I have actually seen the light bulb go on."

[Courtesy: CBC News. Edited for]
December 12, 2016

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