What does it mean to be a modern museum? Why should a Zoomer care about the Uprising of 1857? How can the genius of Indian art inspire the next generation of young creatives? Answering questions like these has helped us shape the vision for Sarmaya, the museum without boundaries.
At the heart of it is a carefully curated repository of art, artefacts and living traditions from the larger Indian subcontinent. Tina and Paul Abraham’s private collection folds in categories as varied as numismatics and cartography, and tracks narratives across a wide swathe of time, from the second century to the 21st. Their search for these objects was driven by passion and a great sense of fun. But acquisition wasn’t the end of their journey. The real pleasure was in sharing this wealth with a larger community and especially its most impressionable citizens, children. When Tina passed away in 2014 from cancer, it became Sarmaya’s mission to carry on the work she started. We began by erasing all boundaries. There will be no boundaries of space—our collection of rare historical artefacts and Indian art will be available to view online and open to anyone willing to follow their curiosity. There will be no boundaries of time—we interpret history through the lens of now, so events that took place two centuries ago will acquire the urgency of a breaking story.
And there will be no boundaries of access—we want to reach out to under-served communities, create immersive experiences and reimagine our tangible and intangible heritage.
Our goal is to one day house the collection in a physical space that transports the visitor to the past, letting them dive into diverse cultures and art forms. But no matter what the medium, whether a gallery show or a gif, our promise remains.
Sarmaya is not a museum you go to; it’s a museum that comes to you.
It was partly to relive and share a never-forgotten, childhood sense of wonder that Paul Abraham started Sarmaya—an Urdu word that in our context means ‘a collective or shared wealth’. Sarmaya.in was set up as an online museum in 2015 and its mission was to make Paul's private collection of historical artefacts and art accessible to everyone. In 2017, Sarmaya Arts Foundation came into being and its mandate is to combine online engagement and on-ground programming, including workshops, lectures and travels, to foster a love for Indian art, history and culture. Paul runs Sarmaya with his partner Pavitra Rajaram.
As a banker with over three decades of experience, Paul knows a thing or two about good investments. He believes the most meaningful way to preserve the things that bring him joy—art, culture, wildlife—is to pass on the flame. He’s fostered a community of young historians, artists and conservationists through fellowships, funding and sustained patronage. Paul serves in advisory capacities and on the board of institutions, like the Hinduja Foundation and Sanctuary Asia. His vision for Sarmaya is that it serve as a link between time and space, past and present so old wonders can be rediscovered through fresh eyes.
Pavitra helps to steer the strategic vision of Sarmaya with new ideas and abundant creative energy. As our Brand Custodian, she has driven an experience-led brand strategy that focuses on innovative programming to engage younger audiences in the art and history of India. She is the founder and Creative Director of the award-winning Pavitra Rajaram Design and former lead designer at Good Earth, a brand she helped craft for over 20 years. Passionate about India and its rich repository of art and culture, Pavitra is most excited about projects that connect her with craftspeople and weavers. Books, textiles, travel and trees are a few of her favourite things.
Our Archive Director Avehi Menon is a Chevening scholar with a Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester. She has worked at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and more recently, she was Curator at the Centre for Public History, Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru where she built oral history archives for institutions such as the Indian Institute of Mathematical Science, the Economic and Political Weekly and the Indian Museum. She's led public history projects, including historical walks in Bengaluru, with an aim to make local history and culture participatory and accessible. Avehi contributed as writer on an archival book, The Story of Sasha (2018) on a pioneering craft organization in Kolkata. Additionally, she has spent ten years as a television producer, developing content for NDTV, Fox History and others. Passionate about art, culture and history, Avehi is interested in building community collaborative projects and making museums engaging, immersive spaces that are accessible to all.
Sarmaya’s Head of Collections Komal leads and manages all aspects related to the systematisation, care and access to our collection. She works closely with colleagues across areas to ensure that varied elements of the collections are used well in research and in developing learning opportunities and memes! She has a Masters degree in archaeology and in museums studies. Her previous work experience has been in collections management and research projects. In the past, she has worked on projects with Pune’s INTACH chapter, the New Walk Museum in Leicester and the Oriental Museum of Durham University. Before she joined Sarmaya, Komal worked at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum as a Curatorial Associate. She is interested in developing new models of access to collections and interpretive strategies in museums. In her free time, she loves discovering and creating all kinds of new and unusual things.
Levensloop, a Learning and Branding organization was his first professional step. Here, he got freedom to engage with the client's perspective and help them grow as a brand by telling their story. His work at the NGO C3 was an opportunity to engage with the social sector. As the Communications officer his work brought the narratives of organization and the people it impacted to the larger world.
With Sarmaya, he has found an echo of his deep interest in people and their histories. Jahanjeet is always on the lookout for a story that needs to be told. He is on a journey once again, this time to unravel the stories that lie embedded in the artefacts the museum holds.
As Administrative Head, Jeswica plans, coordinates and oversees all administrative and financial processes at Sarmaya. A graduate in History, Jeswica chose a corporate career, working in administration in the banking sector for over 20 years before moving to Sarmaya. A result-oriented person, Jeswica has tremendous organisational skills and supports all projects, events and workshops conducted by Sarmaya. She is always up for a challenge and is currently discovering and learning about the arts through the Sarmaya collection.
In the Press
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