The world’s first overseas Kashmiri museum set up in Niagara Falls

Srinagar, Jan 10: The dream project of a Kashmiri doctor couple, Khurshid Ahmad Guru and Lubna Guru, to set up a museum of Kashmir abroad which was envisioned in 2020, has finally come true.

Against the backdrop of the picturesque yet rugged Niagara Falls, the couple has created the first overseas museum of Kashmiri culture and arts.

Khurshid Guru told reporters that more than 12 million people visit Niagara Falls every year and even if a small percentage of them visit the museum, their dream will bear fruit.

To assert its origin, Khurshid has named the museum the ‘Kashmir Centre’. It includes a number of Kashmiri artefacts depicting the culture, history and art of the region.

The Kashmiri doctor’s passion stems from the brutal killing of his father, renowned cardiologist Abdul Ahad Guru, who was killed on April 1, 1993 in Srinagar.

Khurshid is a senior robotic oncologist and head of the urology department at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, US. He has been working in Buffalo along with his pediatrician wife, Lubna, for the past 17 years.

The couple has amassed 1,500 rare books on Kashmir besides artefacts, said to be the largest collection of Kashmir outside the valley.

In 2020, the center purchased the former First Church of Christ Scientist in Park Place. It has its own story. The church had been built in 1917 in neo-Gothic style by the First Society of Christian Scientists of Niagara Falls which had existed since July 26, 1903.

After the purchase, interior remodeling began. False ceilings were demolished, the roof was renewed, windows were re-sealed and an elevator was installed. They also plan to buy two additional houses to provide residential spaces for visiting artists, scholars and collaborators from Kashmir.

The museum is ready to open. The items planned to be exhibited include paintings, out-of-print books and Kashmiri handicrafts such as shawls, carpets, wood carving, machine paper and other items.

As costs have skyrocketed post-Covid-19, the couple is raising funds from patrons of Kashmiri culture and art and also those interested in synthesizing global culture consisting of different remote cultures but deeply interconnected of different races and regions.

The center acquired the property for $200,000 from its owner, Michael Suszek; spent $1.25 million on construction and renovation, another $250,000 on furniture and fixtures, and $300,000 on other costs.

After the pandemic, costs increased. This was despite New York authorities approving a tax concession on the 9,400-square-foot building in September 2021. The center is a public charity that aims to serve as a global focal point for the arts, the culture and history of the Himalayas of South Asia. region Preserving, protecting and promoting the ‘Kashmiri way of life’ is central to its existence.

The center hopes to be able to stand on its own as a business operation, with ticket sales and annual memberships covering operating costs.