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Interest in India like never before, says Britain's museum chief

The world is interested in India like never before, Britain's top museum expert has said.

delhi Updated: Jan 09, 2012 23:47 IST
Sanjib Kr Baruah

The world is interested in India like never before, Britain's top museum expert has said.

"Collections in Indian museums are among the greatest in the world, the inheritance is enormous. And right now, the interest of the world in India is highest than ever before," said Neil MacGregor, director, British Museum.

"The stories of India are lying in these museums and the world wants to know these stories very much at the moment," he added.

In India along with other British museum experts as part of an ambitious culture ministry programme to train museum officials from across the country, MacGregor deftly sidestepped a question on whether there is any effort to restore India objects of historical value lying in Britain's museums to India.

"In London, people from all across can see Indian objects besides objects from Europe, Americas and elsewhere and make out for themselves the extraordinary position of Indian culture along with other civilizations of the world and that is a very important thing," the museum expert said.

On the other hand, Union culture secretary Jawhar Sircar told HT that efforts, albeit 'slow', are definitely taking place to restore such objects to their respective countries of origin.

"We are working through the UNESCO Convention of Restitution of Cultural Property in this regard. Although slow, it is a sure process that is working. And we have reasons to believe that mutual settlements under the aegis of UNESCO are being worked out through a consultative process," said Sircar, who has been awarded the first-ever British Museum medal for his "extraordinary contributions" in piloting museum reforms in the country.

Speaking on the occasion of the launch of the training programme, Union culture minister Kumari Selja expressed concern at the lack of skilled professionals in India and their failure to keep pace with international standards.

"There is a high vacancy rate due to severe shortage of museum professionals, and for this reason museums are in a state of neglect, being managed many times by untrained staff," she said.

The first training session will continue in Delhi till January 20, to be followed by another one in London in March before the final one in Mumbai in May. As part of the programme, Indian scholars will also be given substantial access to the

British Museum's world collection in London.