We are a nation of umpteen religions, a land of culture and a very old civilization. The extent of our diversity has baffled many. One effective and perpetual way to uphold our roots to the future generations is attributed in the form of museums. Originated from a Latin word which denotes a place or temple dedicated to arts, Museum is an edifice set apart for study and preservation of arts. Forming a crucial component in the pursuit of cultural and historical conservation, it has a dual use- it guards us against the misconceptions of history and initiates further process of inquiry to an all new level of knowledge acquisition.
“Individually, museums are fine institutions, dedicated to the high values of preservation, education and truth; collectively, their growth in numbers points to the imaginative death of this country.” -Hewinson, Robert
The first museum/library is the one of Plato in Athens. Since then, it prevailed and thus, became the standing platform – telling the story of how social life has survived over the years. It houses things created by nature and by man and in our modern society, in short houses the cultural soul of the nation. People tend to think of museums as places where only artefacts and things related to them are kept, as treasure houses that hold things in secret. Though there is unfortunately a chunk of truth in this notion, museums primarily focus on generating and disseminating knowledge among individuals and institutions. Along with their traditional role of collecting, preserving and sharing rich collections, they also play an increasing role in supporting the development of communities. Look in a spectrum of different roles it enacts — we will know it is a multitask player. Shaping community identity by bringing different groups together, regenerating new venues and civic spaces are a few to jot down.
Losing its charm — Why?
How does one measure the success of a museum? By the way it influences the social, psychological, historical and ethical thinking of the society. As a result of their historical beginnings in many nations, museums are seen as places where unwanted objects or materials are deposited. This negative interpretation of what museums mean has contributed majorly to its vanishing charm. Adding to that, the acceleration in the digitization of information, combined with the increasing capacity of information storage made them a place which is not the destination for any class of society, in any aspect. It is exasperating to see the prominence of more museums jettisoned.
Time for an overhaul:
The role of museums has changed over time and never more so than in the last 10—15 years. Ignorance and negligence will silently kill our origin of roots. To begin with, museums have to display objects both for aesthetic pleasure and enlightenment (to educate people visually, socially and historically) and function as accessible places to welcome people of all ages. In addition to these, museums must show leadership in the promotion of the heritage of the nation. As Kevin Roche, an architect rightly said, “Museums are the repositories of our cultural heritage. Without them we would be adrift in time — no past, no future”.
As institutions, they must not be afraid to speak through their exhibitions for the good of the nation. Education through exhibits is more appealing and mind-striking. They must mirror events in society and become instruments of progress by calling attention to actions and events that will encourage development in the society. Through properly packaged cultural festivals that can attract an international audience, we can expand the basic horizons and definitions.
Museology is to be taken as a serious area of research towards applying practical and advanced scientific technologies. Through volunteering programs, internships and work placements, development of interest and scope for development will be palpable.
It has become necessary and indeed urgent for museums to redefine their missions, their goals, their functions and their strategies to reflect the expectations of a changing world. They must broaden their scope and not restrict themselves solely to objects and materials in their collections. Summarizing it all, they must be innovative, people-oriented, community-minded, program-oriented, equipped with well-trained personnel and above all, children-friendly, After all, it is them who will instil this practical knowledge deep within us, and later on make an actual contribution.
What we are is culture and how we are is civilization. Let them be nurtured through Museums.Â Godspeed!