With Ahmedabad being announced India’s first World Heritage City, the city’s modern day representation through Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) run museum ‘Sanskar Kendra’ seems to be under peril again.
During a session titled ‘Representing the city through a museum: The Case of Sanskar Kendra Museum at Ahmedabad’ at the Heritage Management Education and Practice conference held by Center for Heritage Management, AU on Saturday, Leora Peres Pezarkar, a student at the university said, “This museum wants to celebrate the living heritage of the city, but there has been no addition to the collections in the last 17 years. The question is, how is it representing the city and its people when the city has moved forward but the collection has not. Most of the 800 visitors every month, are school students.”
Designed by French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier in 1954, Sanskar Kendra has been likened to “a museum of man, popular tradition and scientific research”. Today, it has more than Rs 2 crore worth of donations in the form of artefacts and objects.
Pezarkar highlighted the museum’s lack of outreach initiatives, basic facilities for staff and visitors, lack of air-conditioning and structural maintenance. During a survey in Ahmedabad, she found that among things people wished to see in the museum were the city’s industrial heritage, traditional games played in earlier generations and glimpses of the ‘pol heritage and culture’.
Pezarkar pointed out, “When you go to the museum you notice that there are 18 galleries, but not even one of them represents the things that people want to see. A city museum is not only a place for visitors but also a place for localites, trying to understand their own city and culture.”
She added, “There are 150 Bene-Israeli Jews in the city which is a sizable number, I am one of them, but apart from a few symbolic artefacts that are displayed along with those of other communities there is no context or background on them…150 people just went unnoticed in the city.”
During the session it was suggested that the museum should adopt a more ‘participatory approach’ which was recently used by Helsinki museums and the Kenya national museum by partnering with citizens through outreach programmes.