Looking at the state of India’s museums – from “A Museum Evangelist’s Persuasions” by Rama Lakshmi

penguin_india_2011_bookofnewwriting7_0

Why Museums? […] You need qualifications for it? Isn’t it just about arranging things in glass cases inside a room?

Going by the state of museums in India, these responses are not unreasonable. Cobwebbed galleries, turgid two-line labels, ponderous text panels, indifferent staff and curators who refuse to descend from their summit of impenetrable expertise […]

In February 2009, when Mahatma Gandhi’s distinctive metal-rimmed round spectacles, leather sandals, pocket watch and brass bowl and plate were put up for auction in New York, many Indians saw it as a travesty of Gandhian ideals. Some parliamentarians demanded that the Indian government either stop the auction or put in the highest bid to bring back the nation’s iconic mementos. […]

In India it would be hard to find people who visit and revisit the museums in their cities. Like many of my friends, I have wondered why we don’t bother to revisit our own city museums but when we go abroad, we spend hours browsing around in museums, gazing at objects, reading texts and yet come away with the feeling we didn’t get enough time […]

Local residents rarely go back to their museums because they do not feel connected with the institution.

Looking at the state of the museums, should this surprise us at all? They are static, moribund institutions and do not change or upgrade their exhibitions. Occasionally, the museums may host an international travelling exhibition, leading to a short spurt in visits by locals. But the museums rarely generate new and temporary exhibitions based on existing collections and new scholarship. […]

The commemoration of the Bhopal story gives us an unprecedented curatorial opportunity to portray people’s movements. […]

Source: “A Museum Evangelist’s Persuasions” by Rama Lakshmi in First Proof: The Penguin Book of New Writing 7. pp. 100-7.
Penguin Books India
New Delhi, 2011

Rama Lakshmi has been with The Washington Post’s India bureau since April 1990. A museum studies graduate, she has worked with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the Missouri History Museum.

Source: Rama Lakshmi – The Washington Post
Address : http://www.washingtonpost.com/rama-lakshmi/2011/03/02/ABjxvmP_page.html
Date Visited: Mon Aug 20 2012 17:49:03 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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