Decolonizing Collections

Investigating Knowledge Formation Networks in Colonial India

Arts and Humanities Research Council

Collaborative Doctoral Project

About the project

“Decolonizing collections” looks at the history of four collections of Indian coins. These are currently held in the Ashmolean, the British Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum. While these collections are named after four European male coin collectors – Jose Gerson da Cunha, H. Nelson Wright, Alfred Master and R. B. Whitehead, we know little about the Indian dealers, scholars and collectors who helped them in assembling these collections. The project aims to uncover their role in creating these coin collections. The larger aim of the project is to investigate the role of Indian scholarly networks in producing expert knowledge about Indian history. It will contribute to the project of decolonising museums by telling a fuller history of South Asian colonial collections housed in various museums in the UK. The doctoral researcher on the project is Shreya Gupta. The project is supervised by Professor Nandini Chatterjee, Professor Nicola Thomas and Dr Shailendra Bhandare.


Based at the University of Exeter and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, Shreya is the Collaborative Doctoral Partnership student on this project. Shreya studied History at St Stephen’s College, University of Delhi. Subsequently, she earned her MA in South Asian History from SOAS, London in 2020. 

Through academic endeavours as well as various volunteering experiences, she became interested in museums, especially the role they play in helping the public engage with history. Furthering her interests, she worked in the heritage sector, researching, and writing essays for arts and culture publications as well as curating content for Indian History platforms on social media. In a particularly exciting project, she was part of the Curious Curatorium, a group of students who worked in collaboration with Delhi Art Gallery Museums to curate an online exhibition on the works of Bengali artist Chittaprosad Bhattacharya. Shreya believes in making history accessible by bridging the gap between academic and public histories. She hopes to further this goal by disseminating her research on the history of South Asian collectors and collections through publications, exhibitions, and other creative mediums.  

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