India must reinvent its museums to be more relevant and exciting | editorials | Hindustan Times
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India must reinvent its museums to be more relevant and exciting

To engage youth and local communities in museums and their own history is a good idea that needs to be incorporated into the way that India thinks about its museums. Whether it be a museum of artefacts, of culture, or of natural history; involving those whose histories are being told must always be a priority

editorials Updated: Nov 12, 2017 16:21 IST
Museums must not be dusty old places that have no relevance to the present time; but must be living breathing spaces that can speak to us today about what we can learn from our rich history.
Museums must not be dusty old places that have no relevance to the present time; but must be living breathing spaces that can speak to us today about what we can learn from our rich history.(Sanjeev Verma/HT File Photo)

There is massive and as yet untapped space in India for museums. The scope for documenting and presenting, in a museum format, the rich and varied culture of every region is immense. It was with this in mind that the chair of AusHeritage, Australia’s cultural heritage network, Vinod Daniel, suggested that Indian museums have a bigger problem than just funds. Even the word museum evokes, in India at least, the image of dusty, boring, antiquities that have no relevance to the present. Thus the pejorative ‘museum piece’ to describe someone either boring or behind the times or simply old.

To change this, Mr. Daniel suggests, museums must reinvent themselves as places younger people would want to visit and be a part of. To engage youth and local communities in museums and their own history is a good idea that needs to be incorporated into the way that India thinks about its museums. Whether it be a museum of artefacts, of culture, or of natural history; involving those whose histories are being told must always be a priority. Currently, while some museums in India have really made an effort to ensure that art and culture are readily accessible to the lay person; many museums are badly organised, and have no real engagement with those who visit. In spite of the wealth of history that India has, a lot of it lies dusty and ignored in some corner of a badly planned museum.

Organising events – music, dance, or even simply parties, as Mr. Daniel recommends – that would encourage young people to visit these spaces might be a great way to reinvent how we think about museums – not as spaces that are dead and reflect a time long past; but as living breathing spaces that can speak to us today about what we can learn from our rich history. A society that seeks to be a leader of the future cannot afford to ignore the lessons that its past can teach it.