The Museum of Lost Objects: Delhi’s Stolen Seat of Power
By John Day Barnett
I’m sure you’ve been there – wandering around a museum trying to take everything in and trying to learn something at the same time. The crowded shelves, walls, and displays offer priceless artifacts with sometimes only a small card to identify the culture, meaning, story, and provenance of the objects. Just enough information to get you excited to crack a book on the subject, hop on Wikipedia in the middle of the exhibition, or meander to the next piece in the collection.
What if you flipped the idea of a museum on its head – rather than looking at impressive pieces, you instead got the image of the object only through an oral history. That is exactly what the BBC does with its podcast The Museum of Lost Objects. As the name suggests, the objects have disappeared over time and now remain only in photos, paintings, or replicas.
I found one of the episodes that ran this summer especially interesting, in a series that explored the partition of India and Pakistan seventy years ago. Called Delhi’s Stolen Seat of Power, it included four objects important in the Asian subcontinent but lost to history. The four artifacts included the Mughal Peacock Throne, Kanishka’s Reliquary, Jinnah’s house, and Tagore’s Nobel Prize medal.
Each of the items are important and represent a specific time or era in the history of India and Pakistan. From an artistic luminary to a nation-builders and rulers, the owners are some of the most famous people in history – taught in schools worldwide. The diversity of the pieces mirror the diversity of traditions and cultures that have existed in India, and the importance of India on the global stage.
As a concept, the Museum of Lost Objects is both important and sad. Remembering the objects is important, but the fact that they are lost denies those of us who never got to see the in person a key way to understand the past. The reasons for the losses also mirror the conflict in the region, from political statements to pure theft for profit.
For anyone interested in history and mystery, I highly recommend listening to the series. Other episodes include Kashmir’s Palladium Cinema and The Necklace That Divided Two Nations. I also recommend going to see objects that you find interesting because, as is evidence by the podcast, not all treasures last forever.
Listen to the BBC Podcast: Delhi’s Stolen Seat of Power HERE