Technology, social media can take India's museum movement forward

By Ashok Dixit (ANI) | Updated: Nov 28, 2017 17:41 IST

New Delhi [India], Nov.28 (ANI): Clear strategies coupled with effective application of technology and social media can take the museum movement in India forward, an Indian-origin Australian expert has said.

In an interview given to ANI recently, Mr. Vinod Daniel, Chairman of AusHeritage, Australia's international cultural heritage network, said the museum movement in India needs to be given a major boost and be devoid of government interference unless absolutely necessary.

He said,"I have done a lot of work with museums in about 50 countries. I am the vice chairman of the International Council of Museums Committee for Conservation. In the Indian context, the museum movement hasn't taken off. We must understand and acknowledge that museums play a key part in the promotion of a country's culture and heritage."

Welcoming the Indian government's "Smart Cities" mission, wherein the government has announced with much fanfare an urban renewal and retrofitting program to develop 100 cities across the country, making them citizen-friendly and sustainable, Mr. Daniel said the Union Ministry of Urban Development, which is the nodal agency responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with state governments, should seriously consider a proposal to establish at least one museum in each of these selected smart cities.

The AusHeritage Chairman said India would do well to learn from Singapore on how best to promote a nation's culture and traditions in such a way that it becomes a civic revenue-generating model.

"Till 1993, Singapore did not think about it (establishing and using museums for tourism-related revenue generation). When the realisation dawned that Singapore's cultural links are vanishing, an initiative was started with some urgency to save it from the ravages of time. The past 24 years has revolutionised this sector to the extent that today, the museum and or heritage sector of that country is vibrant and creative, and regularly features festivals and exhibitions," Daniel said.

He added, "Culture is important for creativity. The more efforts are put in to promote the arts, the more creativity blossoms."

As far as India was concerned, Mr. Daniel said that as a first step, a state-wise approach for the establishment of museums must be adopted and adapted.

"One world-class museum in each state should be the goal. Money is not that critical, trained manpower and human resources are more important. There is an absolute need for personnel involved in the museum sector to be educated. As of now, 90 percent of the people in the Indian museum sector are untrained. We need to have or appoint leaders in this sector for a period of at least eight to ten years to make a difference. Appointing bureaucrats is not good enough," Daniel said.

He further said, "The governance model and the reporting to the board (of a particular museum) has to be autonomous. There must be flexibility; there must be a forum in place for idea exchange. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, is Mumbai's main museum, and is a good example of a vibrant institution of heritage that has good government support in terms of funding and assistance."

Mr. Daniel said that a museum to be an attractive destination to visit and go through, it has to be original, and has to create a niche of its own. For example, he made a mention of the Chennai Bronze Collection at the Madras or Government Museum in Egmore, Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

The museum campus comprises of six buildings and 46 galleries with superb archaeological and numismatics collections. It is spread over an area of 16 acres. The the Bronze and the National Art Galleries are worth a visit.

The Bronze Gallery in "Building 3" has a fabulous and rare collection of about 1500 objects - 85 Buddhist, 25 Jain and the rest Hindu. The collection includes specimens from various periods of history ranging from the early centuries of the Christian era to recent times. The rare South India bronze works are from the seventh century to modern times.

"It is the best in the world," said Daniel, adding that clear strategies have to be evolved and introduced. Museums in any form must act as models of education, and in this regard, technology and social media can be of great help.

He signed off my saying that China has set itself a target of establishing 200 to 400 museums annually, and is only held back by the fact that it does not have the required human resource to actualise this initiative. (ANI)