Sacred space of the diaspora as exhibition space embodying spiritual heritage, culture, values and tradition. (Draft)
Sacred space of the diaspora as exhibition space embodying spiritual heritage, culture, values and tradition. This chapter aims to critically analyse the sacred space of the diaspora as exhibition space; in the context of the UK, and suggests that there are potential opportunities for design professionals and museum curators, with expertise in lateral disciplines such as museum and exhibition design, to actively engage with religious organisations to improve on the narratives that currently exist within these environments; thereby instilling greater cultural awareness and enhanced opportunities for inter-cultural dialogue. Most diaspora religious groups in the UK combine, in their sacred buildings, space for spiritual observance, community activity and exhibition. The latter often reflects on the development of the particular religious community within their chosen location in their new home country. Often it is much more - charting the lives of the Gurus and their significant achievements, and sacred artefacts. Five years ago the author was approached to design the new Swaminarayan Hindu temple in Leicester, UK. The result of this was the re-thinking of the form of religious space, with the potential to foster a new openness and a more contemporary interpretation of the religion; creating a space that would not only resonate spiritually with the resident faith community but could also be used as a tool for teaching, learning and fostering community cohesion. This experience, alongside the observation of museum and exhibition spaces within the sacred spaces of the diaspora, presented a number of questions: can sacred spaces be considered as museum or exhibition spaces? Do they fulfil the same roles as a museum; these roles bearing remarkable similarities to those performed by sacred spaces of the diaspora. This is particularly so in the context of a resource used by schools, as part of their religious education programme which promotes the understanding of other religions, partially through study trips to places of worship. Using the design of the Swaminarayan community complex as a case study, this chapter will introduce the idea of the temple interior as a meta-narrative, which can be interpreted on many levels dependent upon the individual life experience of the observer/translator. The space embodies, in its design, important aspects of the faith and culture of its users: Heritage, Culture and Values; significant in their home country, India, but especially so for the diaspora. So not only is there an exhibition that charts the development of a growing community of Swaminarayan Hindus in Leicester; from early beginnings of gatherings in a domestic dwelling to the culmination of worship and pride in a purpose built temple complex; but also the inclusion of content in other spaces, that not only resonates spiritually with the resident community but also proves useful as tools for teaching and learning and inter-faith dialogue. The temple complex works on a variety of levels: centre for spiritual enlightenment, community centre and embedded exhibition space; underpinned by a meta-narrative. This environment provides opportunities for wider discussions within the diaspora communities of Leicester on how to enhance their spaces to achieve greater levels of communication and understanding.
The paper was presented at conference but has not been published as a paper from conference proceedings but has been selected to be included in the book of chapters on conference proceedings
Citation : Fitton, R. (2015) Sacred space of the diaspora as exhibition space embodying spiritual heritage, culture, values and tradition. (Draft)
- School of Design