Redefining the Indian Museum

Webinar, Krittika Kumari, July

The current crises of the pandemic and lockdowns all around the world have made this period perhaps one of the most interesting in terms of restructuring industries, particularly the art sector. Of course, it has been a trying time for the industry given the permanent closure of many small museums, and unemployment for several art and culture professionals. However, the challenge that lies ahead, of ensuring an active audience and of making the museum a sustainable and financially viable institution, is invigorating. It is important for all within the industry to look to the future, and redefine the very objective and relevance of museums and cultural institutions. 


The latest webinar for museum professionals hosted by MAP titled Redefining the Indian Museum facilitated a stimulating conversation among some of the finest museum leaders in the country. Moderated by Vinod Daniel of the AusHeritage and ICOM, the panel comprising Abhishek Poddar (Founder-Trustee, Museum of Art & Photography), Dr Venu Vasudevan (Additional Chief Secretary, Planning & Economic Affairs Department, Government of Kerala), Nalina Gopal (Curator, Indian Heritage Centre, Singapore), Mallika Ahluwalia (CEO & Curator, Partition Museum), and Siddhartha Das (Designer – Siddharth Das Studio), set forth innovative solutions and ideas for existing and upcoming museums in the country.


A few ideas that united all speakers during the discussion were of enhancing the visitor experience and building community engagement. Mallika Ahluwalia elaborated the importance of shifting the object-focussed display of museums towards storytelling, which in turn would prove a more engaging exercise for visitors. Dr Venu Vasudevan, who is currently developing museums for tribal cultures in Kerala, also highlighted the importance of involving local communities while building a museum. Doing so, he brought up a pertinent aspect of curation: creating an active dialogue with the communities being represented allows for a better and more nuanced display of their culture, and is at the very heart of developing any institution. As pointed out by Siddhartha Das, the multiple narratives and disparities of our country need to be handled with the utmost sensitivity and accuracy. 


Among other issues discussed at length were Nalina Gopal’s emphasis on making museums a sustainable location and building collaborations for their survival, as well as Abhishek Poddar’s intention of enhancing and bettering the experiences of museum-goers in India.


A truly relevant discussion for all professionals within the art and culture sector, or for those who wish to enter the space. The full webinar is available on MAP’s Facebook page.


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