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The Sikh Heritage
From simple objects produced in homage to the Gurus to fine pieces created at the royal courts of Punjab, the Sikh material heritage forms an important part of humankind's heritage. Since the time of the Gurus, Sikhs have produced or patronized objects of all types, some of extremely high quality and others intended for daily use.

Extant collections of Sikh heritage material include lavishly illustrated manuscripts produced at eighteenth- and nineteenth-century royal courts, gilded arms and armor, paintings and fine jewelry. Some examples of the handwriting of the Sikh Gurus themselves are also in existence. Other less artistically accomplished but no less important objects, such as religious and historical manuscripts and objects for everyday use also exist.

 

The Dangers

Unfortunately, the Sikh material heritage is in general far from well protected. In addition to the loss and damage caused by past calamities, surviving heritage objects often remain in danger even today. Many are poorly protected from climatic conditions and general decay, while others are in danger from custodial neglect. Most objects in public and private collections in India have not been catalogued or documented, while others in Pakistan, the UK, Europe and the United States remain unknown.

Experts estimate that the majority of Sikh heritage objects no longer survive. Sikh history has been turbulent and traumatic, and the mass destruction of objects caused during the past has been added to by neglect and the willful destruction of historic buildings and scriptural manuscripts by Sikh authorities. In the past few years alone, a number of important gurdwaras have been demolished and important manuscripts of the scriptures have gone missing or been destroyed.

Most of the Sikh heritage has already disappeared or been destroyed. Something must be done now.

 

Objectives

The Sikh Heritage Foundation aims to preserve and promote Sikh cultural heritage, wherever it may be. It seeks in particular to

       Document and record material items of Sikh heritage, wherever they may be.

       Present and promote Sikh heritage to American audiences, both Sikh and non-Sikh, through collaborative projects with American museums, libraries and other institutions.

       Make information on Sikh heritage objects and collections available to the public, both in book form and via digital and electronic.

       Increase awareness of and access to the technology needed to preserved endangered Sikh heritage objects in India.

       Enable American institutions to increase their collections of Sikh material by acquiring legally well-provenanced heritage objects available in American and European art markets.

 

The Sikh Heritage Foundation

The Sikh Heritage Foundation was founded in 2000 by a group of Sikh-Americans concerned with preserving Sikh heritage and presenting it to American audiences, both Sikh and non-Sikh. The Foundation maintains its commitment to promoting Sikh heritage through activities in America and around the world.

The Foundation's first project is to assist the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History (www.mnh.si.edu) with its upcoming installation of a small exhibition on Sikh heritage in the Museum's prominently located Hall of Asian Peoples, along with a concurrent web exhibit. Planning for the exhibition began in December 2000. It is hoped that the Punjab Government will loan a number of objects from its museum and archival collections to be conserved and placed on display before being returned to India.

Projects envisioned for the future include collaborations with other American institutions, the cataloguing of private collections in India, the microfilming of endangered manuscripts in India and Pakistan and the production of illustrated catalogues of collections in India and abroad.

 

   

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