KOLKATA, Feb 2: Noting that museology is a neglected field in the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said Indian Museum in Kolkata, the oldest in Asia, should come forward to lead a change.
“Unfortunately, museology is a woefully neglected field in India. The Indian Museum can and must take a leadership role in this regard. By doing so, it will not only enrich its own collection, but will also help other museums across the country,” Singh said at the inaugural function of the bicentenary celebrations of the museum here.
Calling upon the museum management to see itself as an agent of change and development, the Prime Minister said in order to make a difference the first requirement is to train and develop its personnel.
“As it renews its journey, it should seriously think about its role as a purveyor of knowledge. It is not enough in today’s world to house a collection,” Singh said.
The PM further said that a museum needs to document, study and analyse its own collections, make comparisons with similar collections held elsewhere and build up collaborations with other great museums whose collections reflect and shed light on what it holds.
Highlighting the importance of museums in attracting tourists, he said many great cities are defined by the presence of some outstanding museums as people travel thousands of miles to visit them.
Founded in 1814 by Asiatic Society of Bengal, Indian Museum is the earliest and the largest multipurpose museum in Asia.
The PM released a commemorative postal stamp and a monograph to mark the 200 years of the institution, which is the biggest repository of Indian antiquity and heritage.
He said over time the role and purpose of museums all over the world have undergone transformation and another connotation – a building dedicated to the pursuit of learning or the arts has been added.
“Museum is a collection and also an institution of learning and the dissemination of learning,” Singh said.
Stating that a visit to the museum should be “truly enriching” and a complete experience, Singh said, “This means extensive support in terms of signage, documentation and cataloguing. Museums must become attractive places where visitors can observe and learn in a relaxing atmosphere.”
He stressed on the need for Indian Museum to build up that kind of infrastructure and take its rightful place as one of the great museums of the world and asked the authorities to introduce multi-lingual audio guides that would give visitors a detailed and authentic account of the major items and displays.
“It should be the objective of the museum to become and essential port of call for any visitor to Kolkata, especially those from abroad. It should offer the visitor an exciting and educative prospect of spending a few hours sampling the best of Indian art, sculpture, and other historical artifacts, giving a glimpse of our extraordinary rich traditions,” Singh said.
Noting that the Indian Museum was popularly known as ‘Jaadughar’, Singh said the word ‘Jaadu’ represents both magic and wonder.
“The challenge is to enhance both and make the museum space more alluring, because it is only a magic-like fascination with the wonders that lie within the portals here that will enable the museum to remain relevant for the next 200 years,” the PM said adding that it should be made more lively and interactive.
After inaugurating the newly-renovated campus of Indian Museum, which was closed to visitors since September, the PM also went around the renovated galleries along with West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The Rs 100 crore renovation is funded by the Union Ministry of Culture. (PTI)