Ruined by invaders, looted by foreigners, ruled by the British and built by dynasties, the Indian culture and heritage has that conducive environment for museums to prosper. But there’s the rub – they’re not! Lessons from the West for the Indian museum authorities...
Step out of the tube-rail in Russel Square station in London, and you will be greeted by gigantic posters, depicting scenes from the lives of ancient African tribes. For a first-comer, this rather African pictorial welcome in the land of the British seems rather strange. Matters however get cleared out when you get to the markings on the wall that indicate the way to the ‘The British Museum’ (TBM). Every month, TBM organises a show and a seminar with a central theme, which revolves around ancient civilisation or on ancient paintings & sculptures. The effort is fully supported by 360 degree advertisements and merchandising. For the month of June, the theme at TBM is the ancient African tribal life. There are also colourful posters at the station that invite kids to ‘The Natural History’ museum in South Kensington, London.

From London, we move further east – to Paris. Even the Louvre museum in Paris, which houses the much revered Mona Lisa along with an astonishing collection of 35,000 objects exhibited within an area of 60,600 square metre, ensures that the visitors are handed over a detailed guide map with a background literature on each collection. There’s more. Like any other museum in England & US, this French museum too earns huge revenues from sales of its merchandise and souvenirs. Europeans and Americans must be surely teaching lessons in schools on how to maintain their culture & history with pride! Despite most of the artefacts being more than five generations old, the glam attached to them doesn’t seem to be losing a shade. And you don’t realise this till you come back to your very own India, which on paper is known to have a culture and heritage to die for, but which showcases the same elements rather too poorly.

Let’s run a quick awareness test here. How many museums are there in the capital city of New Delhi? One? Two? Three? Little do even residents of New Delhi know that the city has 22 museums in all (divided under five broad heads as per the tourism department). Walk into the National Museum located on Janpath (called National Archives), and a constitutionally bone-lazy atmosphere greets you. The entrance to the structure is adorned by a comatose struck ticket counter, which remains closed for an extra half-an-hour during lunch break. How many excited souls would you meet here? None, except a few unputdownable foreigners who refuse to get dejected by the lack an enthusiastic support system.

Besides the regular (history-based) sections, the museum also houses a theme-based exhibition section. Surprisingly though, neither the museum authority, nor the Tourism department of India have shown any intention or promise to promote this special feature! And this is not an exceptional lack of interest; never an attempt has been made to brand or market any of the 300 museums across the country. It seems least likely that there will be any in the future to change the perception of Indian museums as a moth-eaten, stodgy and spiritless place.

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2011.

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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