“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

To help us realize the above statement, we have two wonderful assets in the form of the National Museum in New Delhi and the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (Formerly The Prince of Wales Museum) in Mumbai. It was heartening to visit the flagship museums of our country. Yes, things are getting better with plenty of opportunities for innovation.

Clockwise from top Foyer of Mumbai museum, walkway to the Mumbai Museum and the Delhi National Museum
Clockwise from top Foyer of Mumbai museum, walkway to the Mumbai Museum and the Delhi National Museum

The teams at both the museums have started engaging visitors by including audio guides, brochures, guide books, audio visual shows and other theme based events like the International day Yoga. The counter staff are knowledgable about the exhibit areas,  conduct themselves very professionally and regularly seek suggestions from the visitors.

  • Both the museums begin their tours with an introduction to civilizations of the world. Busy charts, maps and a few artifacts crowd out entire floors. How relevant is it to showcase a bathing area, ritual pots and pans without an accompanying audio visual show talking about how people lived in those days? Digital enhances the visitor experience. The same can be made available through a museum website for people outside of these cities to get a virtual walk through
  • Our governments still own our museums; This strength should be used to rope in more Thematic content like the one organized during International Yoga day for example. With India’s excellent diplomatic relations with UN Member countries, a bi monthly showcase with one such country can help our fellow country men know the country and its people a lot better. This can be a physical exhibition plus a digital feature as well. How about a Japan month to start with? The Museum of Tribal arts and artifacts in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa is a brilliant theme based exhibition of Orissa’s Tribal roots. The staff in the museum are extremely knowledgable about their own and explain their culture with a truck load of passion

 

The Bhubaneshwar, Orissa museum of Tribal Arts and Artifacts, A must visit!
The Bhubaneshwar, Orissa museum of Tribal Arts and Artifacts, A must visit!
  • There are sections within museums which deserve to be re-imagined. The coinage gallery in the National museum for example. Who in current times will get excited with a dour exhibit which does not have any interactivity. How about a small game helping visitors understand how coinage has evolved in India
The Coinage gallery which one just breezes past for lack of interactivity. Cluttered Museum floor impeding smooth movement of Visitors
The Coinage gallery which one just breezes past for lack of interactivity. Cluttered Museum floor impeding smooth movement of Visitors
  • The stone and Bronze sculpture galleries detail the art across various empires of India . It will be wonderful to see some of India’s stolen and recovered sculptures being showcased. An interactive digital gallery which explains making of sculptures and explaining the significance of symbols can excite the visitor to delve deeper in to our country’s rich past
The Stone and Bronze sculpture sections in both the Museums across various epochs. Vishnu, Ganesh, Kuber, Durga and Buddha are common themes
The Stone and Bronze sculpture sections in both the Museums across various epochs. Vishnu, Ganesh, Kuber, Durga and Buddha are common themes
  • Both the museums take pride in the collections of their paintings, especially the miniatures and European art collection in Mumbai. I don’t understand western art. How can we help the average visitor understand and appreciate art? Can the website or a Kiosk help enhance the experience and get the visitor to better appreciate art? We have numerous art schools and am sure many of them would love to hand a summer project to their students in this area
  • The Mumbai museum has a well curated Textile section which i think is a real crowd puller. Similarly there is a lot to be explored across
    • Agricultural history and evolution of Irrigation in India
    • Maritime Trade history of India
    • India’s forces and a light and sound show – Army, Navy and Air Force
    • India’s space history and accomplishments
    • Indian Railways – Engine of growth for the country
    • Wars fought by India and where we were involved like the II world war
    • Using global visual archives to help the visitor understand India’s contribution to peacekeeping efforts across the world
    • India’s victories to keep its borders secure
A textile map of India, Prints of various states of India, Child dresses, Parsee Saree
The Textile Heritage of India showcased within the precincts of the Mumbai Museum
  • The Mumbai Museum has actively engaged children and adults with small craft workshops, making ones own pre-historic tile and printing on paper and cloth. This is a good beginning
  • Both the Museums have in-museum stores and have stocked up on a good collection of take aways that are reasonably priced and of good quality. Key chains with miniatures, Coffee table books, pen holders, bags and other interesting gifting ideas

At the same time, important to be mindful of the facilities  like being disable friendly, providing ample sitting areas, restrooms at every level, water fountains and cafes. Without these it is a bit cruel to expect the Old, children and the infirm to visit our Museum.

Safety is another aspect of our Museums which have made news for all the wrong reasons. A fire or a deluge can wipe out decades of painstaking curation efforts. It can be heart wrenching to lose precious artifacts. Digitizing them offers an option apart from mandatory safety mechanisms.

Museums tell stories and we and our children have and will grow up with stories, isn’t it?

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