Pakistan, a nation born out of strife and turmoil with a history as checkered as its past, lays claim to one of the largest archeological collection in South Asia exhibited in the Lahore Museum. Lahore Museum is one of the oldest museums of Pakistan and the most popular one as well. It traces its heritage back to 1856, established soon after the annexation of Punjab in 1849. This museum culture was a British phenomenon introduced in the subcontinent to aid the colonists to better understand and therefore better exploit India’s resources. The British wanted to ‘objectify India as a cultural and capital commodity’ (Bhatti 22), promoting the birth of museums in the sub continent. Hence, the past becomes a key to understanding the present. This chapter examines the need for the establishment of museums in the sub-continent and the changing role they play in identity construction.The museum was used as a material archive to catalogue the wealth of a nation. Prior to the establishment of museums, exhibitions were used to display the material progress of a country. The Great Exhibition had a monumental effect on the arrangement and future development of exhibits and form. Firstly, there was a shift from the process to the products that were produced, emphasizing the mutually beneficial relationship of the state and capitalism. The Great Exhibition was a show of colonial supremacy. Marking a divide between Britain and the ‘other’. It embodied the principles of classification constructed by the empire. Building a hierarchy between the races: Latin, Anglo-Saxon, American and Oriental being the favored ones, whereas black peoples and aboriginals were denied representation, being thought of as an extrapolation of the imperial power (Bennet 23). The aim was to highlight the disparity of progression of the races based on material output. As said by the Empire Educational League Committee: “The progress of colonization and commerce makes it every year increasingly evident that European races and especially those of our own islands, are destined to assume a position in part, one of authority in part, one of light and leading in all regions of the world.” (Coombes 10)However, by the systematic array of objects and the teleological narrative it put forth, it drew a divide between universal, and national history. As newly formed nations and imperial powers annexed history to become the originators of civilization itselfThis led to the scientific array of consolidated knowledge, showcasing the development of the nation in the forms of museums. Hence museums came to be repositories of ‘authentic’ and as Sumaira Samad (the Director of Lahore Museum) said, ‘unadulterated history’. The museum institute professed to be autonomous, free from the bonds of political manipulation. However, by the systematic array of objects and the teleological narrative it put forth, it drew a divide between universal, and national history. As newly formed nations and imperial powers annexed history to become the originators of civilization itself. The legitimizing of superiority is even seen in post-colonial Pakistan, where by tracing its origin back to Islamic roots preserves the sanctity of the state. Part 2Moreover, to unite the nation and form a universal link, the British museum employed the theory of evolution to delineate how ‘primitive people’ were stuck in a stage of arrested development, which the West had bypassed a long time back (Bennet 19). These primitives were purported to be stuck between nature and culture. The artifacts belonging to the ‘other’ were represented as standing still in history, voiceless. Saartjie Bartman, the Hottentot Venus was touted as an example to prove the inferiority of the ‘primitives’, possessing ape like characteristics and anatomical anomalies. She was put on display as a representative of the blacks placing the white targeted audience on the top of the evolutionary pinnacle. Mock villages were constructed with actors hired from that particular region, with objects representative of that particular culture. The sense of spectacle and vicarious tourism subtly fed the cultural divide. Tutoring masses to internalize the sense of racial superiority and the ‘dominating gaze of the white’ (Bennet 25). This educational activity to eradicate racism by teaching the masses about the culture of the ‘other’, in this particular setting furthered the split. Museums provided a permanence and stability, which the exhibitions lacked, but this permanence affected the ideological flexibility of it to construct a different narrative later on. Thus public museums ‘instituted an order of things that was meant to last’ (Bennet 22), with little or no change in the future. The narrative it constructed was supposed to be farsighted and in accordance with the future development of the nation as a whole.The perspective of the empire was supplanted to its colonies, India being one of them. The British displayed the wealth of its colony for trade advancement and to gain a better understanding of the subjects it ruled. Lahore Museum as we know it today could be seen as a colonial memento, interspersed with now what some may call a national rhetoric. To get a more holistic picture of this, it is pertinent to look at the different perspectives associated with the birth of museums in colonial India and subsequently of the Lahore Museum.In 1756, the British Museum was constructed and after forty years of its inception the Asiatic Society of Bengal under the care of Sir William Jones decided to take on the formation of a museum in colonial India. The purpose was to consolidate knowledge pertaining to the colonized, which the British clamored to understand and subjugate after the mutiny of 1857 (Bhatti 52). Markham and Hargreaves record twelve museums in India in 1857 (Markham and Hargreaves 16), with an astounding increase in number recording 105 public museums in 1935 alone: emphasizing the power of the imperial state to order objects and bodies alike. They had a strong desire to impress the masses of Punjab with the might of the empire, by constructing a museum amassed of their fortunes but limiting membership. In the year 1856, Lahore Central Museum was constructed at Wazir Khan’s Baardari, an old Mughal building, which was used as a British office prior to it becoming a museum. The state of the museum is difficult to assess at this time but deductions can be made through a letter written to the editor of Lahore Chronicle on 23 of July 1856, stating that the museum was run ‘under the highest local authorities’ (Bhatti 55). However, with the governments ‘appeal’ (Singh 15), to give up private collections, gifts were made (voluntarily and involuntarily) by princes, native gentlemen and travellers. After the Great Exhibition of 1851, the collection of the Lahore Museum was also put on an exhibition, which amusingly enough a British administrator labeled as a ‘tamasha’ (spectacle). The exhibition was displayed in Tollinton Market in 1864, which became the site of the relocated Lahore Museum for about 30 years. The exhibition was a means to promote trade advancement by showcasing the best designs, artifacts, and materials from all over Punjab to inspire the craftsmen and motivate them to surpass their predecessors.The writer is an Assistant Editor at Daily Times and is a gender rights activistPublished in Daily Times, January 11th 2019.