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Object in Focus: Narsīgā at the Museum of Farnham

Emma Sutcliffe, Assistant Curator at the Museum of Farnham, tells us how an Object in Focus loan from the Horniman contributed to their latest exhibition - Resonance.

In 2016, the Collections Access Officer from the Horniman Museum and Gardens contacted us at the Museum of Farnham to ask if we were interested in borrowing an object through the Object in Focus loan programme.  There were lots of different objects to choose from, but my colleague Liz, the Museum Curator, thought that an Indian Narsĩgā (narsiṅga) or trumpet would be the best choice because it linked well to an exhibition we were planning all about sound and technology.  We agreed with the Horniman that the narsiṅga would be loaned from 3 October 2017 until 20 January 2018.  In the meantime, we began work on the exhibition, which we called 'Resonance'.

  • Narsinga, Narsiga (narsinga), of copper and brass made by Parveen Vig in Amritsar, Punjab, around 2006.  This S-shaped horn is played in various parts of North India, notably in places of worship such as Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras.
    Narsiga (narsinga), of copper and brass made by Parveen Vig in Amritsar, Punjab, around 2006. This S-shaped horn is played in various parts of North India, notably in places of worship such as Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras.

Resonance focuses on sound and technology and the exhibition includes objects that link to this theme, such as a 1950s television, gramophone players, and a child’s flute as well as photographs of various clubs and societies in Farnham. Most of these items come from the Museum collection, however, I also wanted to be able to show modern technology to conclude the story. In order to do this, I had to ask my very obliging husband to loan some more up to date items, including an iPod Nano, an iPhone, and CDs.

  • IMG_0206, The Museum of Farnham in Surrey is situated in a Grade I listed Georgian Townhouse. , Museum of Farnham
    The Museum of Farnham in Surrey is situated in a Grade I listed Georgian Townhouse. , Museum of Farnham

I also worked with the Farnham Sound Vault, a volunteer initiative, to set up a new online radio and podcast for Farnham. The volunteers helped us by recording sounds local to Farnham, such as the stream in Gostrey Meadow and a busker outside the local Waitrose. These sounds were used as part of a touchscreen that I put together for the exhibition. It also includes snippets from the Museum’s local history archive and sounds of the musical instruments in the exhibition, including a recording of the narsiṅga which was also loaned to us by the Horniman.

  • Museum of Farnham Exhibition, An exhibition room at the Museum of Farnham showing the narsinga on display , Museum of Farnham
    An exhibition room at the Museum of Farnham showing the narsinga on display , Museum of Farnham

As part of the Resonance programme there were various other events at the Museum of Farnham, including an evening talk given by Margaret Birley, Keeper of Musical Instruments at the Horniman. Margaret spoke about collecting instruments in India for the Horniman – including the narsiṅga. It was fascinating to hear about the regional differences in music in India from Margaret who had travelled across India collecting musical instruments.

It has been fantastic to take part in the Horniman’s Object in Focus loan programme and we feel really privileged to have loaned the narsiṅga, which is a beautiful object.

  • IMG_2772, An exhibition room at the Museum of Farnham showing part of the Resonance display, Museum of Farnham
    An exhibition room at the Museum of Farnham showing part of the Resonance display, Museum of Farnham