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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

In a Glass Case

It's not a day that calls for Archie’s cards,corny text messages or friendship bands. International Museum Day sounds too staid and serious for such things.

Written by Georgina Maddox |
May 18, 2010 10:42:21 pm

Today is International Museum Day,but who is celebrating?

It’s not a day that calls for Archie’s cards,corny text messages or friendship bands. International Museum Day sounds too staid and serious for such things. Since 1977 the International Council Of Museums,housed in the UNESCO building in Paris,has been celebrating May 18 as the day to celebrate the relevance of museum in society — this year the theme is unity in diversity. While a few museums in India,like the Sanskriti Museum in Delhi and the erstwhile Prince of Wales Museum now known as The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) in Mumbai,have made plans to mark this day as significant,not many have registered this date on their calendar.

Aside from a handful of intellectuals and die-hard art aficionados,visiting a sarkari building full of badly lit,ill-curated and dust-covered artifacts is not on the priority list of most people.

“Indians are not a museum-going race,we go to malls and we go out to eat. The Europeans already have a culture of visiting museums,” says Abha Narain Lambha,conservationist and restorer. “The problem lies not in our people but in the manner in which we present our museums and art. One has to create an aura of excitement around art,make it a happening place and use good communication tools to create an interface between people and objects of historical relevance,” says Lambah.

While the canteen at CSMVS is getting a makeover,the National Gallery of Modern Art,(NGMA) in Delhi is yet to open its café to the public. “We have a whole day of film screenings on pioneers like Rabindranath Tagore,our usual gallery walk and free entry for all to mark this day. The café is currently not up to the mark,and we only have tea on offer,” says S P Dutta,restorer at the museum. Director Rajiv Lochan is currently on holiday.

Compare this to a day at the Victoria Albert Museum ,London ,where one can view the Horace Walpol collection,or fine prints of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Then shop at their museum store for everything from a small sharpener to a high-end designer bag,and end by eating at the Brompton Bar and Grill,a fine-dining restaurant a stone’s throw away from the museum. Small wonder why no one shows up at the NGMA.

O P Jain of Sanskriti Museum says involving children in museum activities has been their main concern. “We have organised a two-day residential workshop for children at the Sanskriti Kendra. There will be a n ature trail,bird-watching and a nightsky watch. We will also take the kids to the textile museum,” he says.

However,when asked about the general neglect of most of India ‘s prestigious museums,Jain is non-committal,“Things are improving,the Ministry of Tourism has allocated money to non-governmental museums and is giving some importance to art and culture,” he says.

Lambah indicates that The Commonwealth Association of Museums has a June programme at the CSMVS and the Jai Vilas Palace in Gwalior where serious issues regarding the upgrade of museums will be discussed. One only hopes that it will not be just a series of grand plans that do not see the light of day. It is one thing to dream big but quite another to execute it.

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