The world’s first museum dedicated to Kashmiri culture is set to open at Niagara Falls in the United States. The Centre for Kashmir, led by a Kashmiri surgeon, Dr. Khurshid Guru, will feature several artifacts reflecting the region’s art, culture, and history. The initiative aims to fill cultural space gaps for the significant South Asian community.
Niagara Falls, a group of three waterfalls at the southern end of Niagara Gorge, spans the border between the province of Ontario in Canada and the state of New York in the United States. It is a popular tourist spot, attracting around 12 million visitors annually. Despite the presence of Indian restaurants in the area, the city lacks cultural spaces, as reported in American media.
Local Surgeon Leads Initiative to Bring Kashmiri Culture to Niagara Falls
The Centre for Kashmir aims to provide a dedicated space for the region’s culture and history. “There are exhibits in other parts of the world that may have a corner somewhere, but not a dedicated space for Kashmir,” said the Centre’s Chief Executive Officer, Ali Muzammil, in an interview with the Niagara Gazette.
Dr. Khurshid Guru, a senior robotic oncologic surgeon heading the Urology department at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Centre at Buffalo, is behind the initiative. He and his wife, Lubna, have been living in the area for the past 17 years. Lubna is a pediatrician in Lockport, and the couple has called East Amherst home since 2005. They wish to invest in its art space and provide a place to collect artifacts and books on Kashmiri culture.
Revitalizing a Historic Building: Renovations Underway for Centre for Kashmir Museum
The couple has assembled almost 1500 rare books on Kashmir, which is said to be the most extensive collection outside of Kashmir. In 2020, the Centre purchased the former First Church of Christ Scientist on Park Place, a historic building. The church, built in 1917 in the Gothic Revival style, was the former home of the First Society of Christian Scientists of Niagara Falls, which existed since July 26, 1903.
After the purchase, the interior remodeling began. The Centre for Kashmir, the world’s first museum dedicated to Kashmiri culture, is undergoing extensive renovations. The former First Church of Christ Scientist on Park Place, purchased in 2020, has had its false ceilings removed, the roof renovated, windows resealed, and an elevator installed. In addition, the Centre plans to acquire two additional houses to provide residential accommodation for visiting Kashmiri artists, scholars, and contributors.
Preserving and Promoting Kashmiri Culture: The Centre for Kashmir Museum’s Vision and Progress
The items planned to be displayed in the museum include paintings, drawings, out-of-print books, and Kashmiri handicrafts, including shawls, rugs, wood carving, paper-mâché, and other things. The artifacts will be displayed in the former church’s worship area, while the space inside the main entrance will be the Centre’s library and archives collection. A conference room will also be set up in the current choral balcony.
The renovation and repair process is expected to be completed by the summer of 2023. Most people working on the project are Kashmiri Americans, with funds coming from the nationwide community. The Niagara County Industrial Development Authority has also lent its support by donating 1 million dollars to the Centre for its construction.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy, the Centre has secured funding and support for the project. The Centre acquired the property for $200,000 from its current owner, Michael Suszek, with $1.25 million for construction and improvement, $250,000 for furniture and equipment, and $300,000 for other costs. However, prices have escalated due to the pandemic, and the Centre is constantly fundraising.
The Centre is a public charity that aims to serve as the global focal point on art, culture, and history.