The Ministry of Culture will at some time in the near future be conducting its first ever formal appraisal in Independent India. The last one was done in 1936!
At a special function held in Mumbai on Friday to award Leadership Training Program (LTP) certificates to museum professionals, Minister of Culture Kumari Selja, directed Director General, National Museum, Pravin Srivastava, to initiate action in this regard.
She was responding to the small bombshell dropped by Director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor, about the need for such an appraisal, considering that Independent India had never carried out one. Selja said it was obviously long overdue in the context of global co-operation and the necessity of upgrading in order to at least double the volume of visitors to our museums.
Twenty in-service professionals from 11 Indian museums were given certificates for successfully completing the program which began at the end of January this year. Facilitated by the British Museum, London, it included intensive training sessions on curation, collection management, design and display, storage, preservation and conservation, outreach, education and exhibitions. The whole exercise was undertaken by the Ministry of Culture along with the British Museum and the National Culture Fund.
In her valedictory address, Kumari Selja spoke of a vision for Indian museums of which the LTP is a part and the need to encourage young skilled professionals to upgrade their skills. The first successfully-concluded LTP is just a prelude to a number that will follow in future, she said.
The minister admitted that the shortage of trained manpower for Indian museums is a huge cause for concern. She also spoke of the need to cut through red tape and find solutions out of the box for the range of problems that plague their working in India
“Each of our museums must make a concerted effort to double visitor numbers,” she declared. “This will attract a wider variety from a cross section of society.” Programs like the LTP would enable the display of artefacts etc in their correct geopolitical context, which is as important in today’s world without borders as lighting and display, she added.
The LTP was conducted in three cities, Delhi, London and Mumbai, after the participants were selected through an exhaustive process that included interviews. “Each of the three modules consisted of training to get our participants to imbibe strategies for change, management and organisation,” said Shobita Punja, the CEO of the National Culture Fund. Elaborating further, she said, “Each was asked to change one thing in their museums, as a part of their training. This could be narrations, labels, introducing table easels making for easier viewing of artefacts, children’s interactive galleries, even new syllabi for courses in museology. The results, she said, were surprising and very encouraging as participants went back to their collections to think up new methods of display and interaction.
Proving that the talent and ability is already here and merely in need of support and encouragement, two participants of the program, J.M. Gandhimathi from the Chennai Government Museum, and Vijay Kumar Mathur from the National Museum, Delhi, delivered a presentation on Strategy for Indian Museums, 2012, in which they offered an eight-point recommendation that included the development of a museum policy that in turn included more accountability, and requests for support from the authorities in making Indian museums more relevant to contemporary times, in the interesting of increasing footfalls and interest.
Kumari Selja also promised that her ministry would look into the suggestions at the earliest.