Voices from the Commonwealth: Diversity, identity and culture

Sample the diverse nature of the Commonwealth in our display to mark the occasion of the games in Glasgow. From 9 July to 7 September 2014.


The 20th Commonwealth Games is hosted in Scotland this summer by the city of Glasgow.

To mark the occasion, our treasures display presents selected books, photographs, sketches, maps and manuscripts representing all regions and countries of the Commonwealth.

These exhibits illustrate the diverse cultures and histories of its 2.2 billion inhabitants.


Indigenous and colonial material

While focusing on the 20th and 21st centuries and on material produced by indigenous peoples, we have also represented some of the colonial heritage of the Commonwealth as it evolved from the British Empire. 

Items created by missionaries, explorers, and colonial officials sit next to the work of Indian astrologers, Nigerian novelists and Ghanaian revolutionaries.

We have sought to show the manifold nature of the Commonwealth, which in turn reflects the diverse collections at the National Library of Scotland as they span the colonial past and Commonwealth's present.


Highlights on display

  • A hand-painted 18th century Indian roll containing diagrams and mythological figures of Indian astrology
  • A sketch of the Brimstone Hill Fort in St Kitts and Nevis built with slave labour — it is a testament to the innovative skills of British engineers and a poignant reminder of the human tragedy of slavery
  • A 1988 issue of 'The Pakistan Times' published in Lahore, reporting the election of Benazir Bhutto, the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan and thus the first female leader of a Muslim state
  • A 1930s photograph of a group of Canada's Cree Indians — part of the papers of John Buchan, the author of 'The 39 steps' who served as Governor-General of Canada from 1935 to 1940
  • Late 19th century sketches of Africa drawn by Scottish missionaries and explorers
  • Literary works by African and Caribbean authors.


Established in 1949

In 1949 the London Declaration established the modern Commonwealth, a voluntary association of indedependent and equal sovereign states.

In 2013 the Commonwealth published its charter outlining the guiding principles of democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and freedom of expression.

Many of the items on display — whether literary, artistic, or political — represent events borne from the fight for freedom of expression, equal rights and democracy.


Opening hours

The display in our George IV Bridge Building is open daily:

Monday to Friday: 10.00-20.00
Saturday: 10.00-17.00
Sunday: 14.00-17.00

Admission free.


Exhibitions main page


Speak me