Museum merry-go-round

The Tourism Ministry has proposed that all Govt offices around India Gate be shifted out and the buildings converted into museums.

india Updated: May 24, 2007 02:39 IST
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The plan to turn the area around India Gate in the national capital into a museum hub might have a nice ring to it, but it is difficult to understand what a government that cannot keep existing cultural icons in good shape will achieve by spending more than Rs 800 crore on this new venture. The Tourism Ministry has proposed that all government offices around India Gate be shifted out and the buildings converted into museums to turn the area into a bigger tourist destination. There are also plans to set up open-air theatres for music concerts and introduce laser and sound-and-light shows. The proposed new rail, war, space and earth museums among others would add to the existing clutch of edifices that house the National Museum, the National Gallery of Modern Art and the National Archives.

The capital is another story, but if we look around we find that our history, culture and heritage is mostly showcased in several dusty, badly-run museums that are perennially short on funds. Hundreds of beautiful museums across the country lie in various states of disrepair due to public and bureaucratic apathy. It might, therefore, be a better idea to spend money to make them more attractive to Indian and foreign tourists than to create new ones that too would eventually fall into disrepair in the years to come due to poor management and lack of expertise. Heritage is priceless and for all, but only if it is cherished and preserved. To create museums with suitable infrastructure where people can go and enjoy, therefore, makes more sense.

Washington’s Constitution and Independence Avenues house some of the best museums in the world. Admission is free and the toilets are clean. The artefacts on display are well-preserved and rooms well-lit. They also earn top dollars by selling replicas of some of the world’s most-viewed objets d’ art. New York’s Metropolitan Museum earns a lot through its shops across major cities of the world as well as by offering online bargains to discerning buyers. So does the Louvre in Paris and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Our museums, if at all, sell some really shoddy replicas to visitors. It is time to look into ways to not only better manage our priceless museums but also turn them into profitable ventures so that they are not at the mercy of a ministry’s dole. Encouraging public-private partnership might be part of the answer.

First Published: May 24, 2007 00:35 IST