Unique collection of South Asian art in Norwich set to become more accessible to the public

A unique collection of South Asian art kept at a restored Victorian skating rink in Norwich is set to become more accessible to the public and as an education resource.

The Sainsbury Institute for Art at the UEA is working with the South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection (SADACC) Trust to increase public activities and educational opportunities at the Country and Eastern store in Bethel Street.

The new South Asian centre and museum would be along similar lines to the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, which is part of Sifa.

Under the new collaboration, it is planned to upgrade support facilities for public and academic events held in the building and stage rotating exhibitions based on the collection. Associated research and educational activities are also planned.

The SADACC trust was established in 2010 by Philip and Jeannie Millward who set up the retail business Country & Eastern, selling traditional decorative furnishings from countries extending from Turkey to East of Java more than 30 years ago.

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The collection of about 4,000 items is a result of their many journeys through South Asia since the 1970s, together with purchases from auction houses and other sources in the UK.

The trust aims to conserve and promote interest in the arts, crafts and culture of South Asia, and neighbouring regions such as Afghanistan, Burma, Thailand and Indonesia, in light of rapid globalisation. Over the last two years it has developed study and library facilities at the site in Bethel Street, along with a new exhibition gallery adjacent to the main hall area. To date, these developments have been funded by Country & Eastern and the retail business will continue unchanged.

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Mr Millward said: 'We have worked with the UEA on an ad hoc basis for many years and this will formalise the relationship.

'It will make the SADACC collection more available as an educational resource and hopefully secure a long-term future for the collection and this iconic building, with public access guaranteed.

'The appointment of a collection curator a year ago is proving successful, and many groups from around the Eastern region have availed themselves of the tours, talks and exhibitions.

'One of the prime objectives is to develop contacts and ties with academic and other institutions in South Asia. This will hopefully create relationships and introductions into an area which is fast becoming an economic giant of the 21st century.'

A recent assessment of the collection by the UEA found that its emphasis on furniture and architectural items indigenous to South Asia makes it unique in the UK.

Chairman of Sifa, Prof John Mack said: 'We are delighted at UEA that such generous local patrons have so willingly encouraged an expansion in the range of activities and educational opportunities in the city and to our students at the university.

'The work we have been doing together over the past years shows what potential a relationship such as this can realise.'

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