Jointly developed by the British Museum and National Culture Fund, the second edition of Leadership Training Programme lays emphasis on the capacity building of serving museum professionals

It will be a while before the current lot of museums in this country transforms from merely being showcases of national heritage and introverted academic institutions into vibrant spaces of exchange and learning. Such projects will need time and patience, but the good news is that a number of efforts, private and public, are already on in this direction. Undertaken by Ministry of Culture, museum renewal programme raises lot of hopes.

Earlier this week, the second edition of its Leadership Training Programme (LTP) was launched by the Minister of Culture, Chandresh Kumari Katoch. Notably, the syllabus for LTP has been developed by the National Culture Fund (NCF) and the British Museum, one of the world’s oldest museums housing a massive collection. And Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum and a great art historian, was present on the occasion.

The main thrust of the LTP is on the development and training of in-service museum professionals in order to work in the areas of museum management, museum strategies and audience engagement. At the inauguration function, both Chandresh Kumari Katoch and Shobita Punja, CEO, NCF, emphasised on making museums more audience-centric so that they become popular organisations and more engaging for the public.

Vinod Daniel, international museum expert and chairman of AusHeritage (a network of Australian cultural heritage) who was here last year to speak on “Innovative Museum Technologies from Germany” had told us that while investing in latest technology like museum display cases, lighting, security, pest management, audio guides and flexible exhibition design are extremely crucial, staff upgradation too is a must.

AusHeritage was again in India, in Jaipur this time to collaborate with the Maharaj Sawai Man Singh II Museum Trust on heritage conservation and cultural tourism. The Australian and Indian teams took part in a joint forum on museum collections and conservation, heritage architecture and conservation, and cultural tourism.

Like the first edition of LTP (which trained 20 professionals from 11 organisations — National Museum, National Museum Institute, Allahabad Museum, Salarjung Museum, Hyderabad, Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS), Bhopal, Egmore museum, Chennai, Indian Museum, Kolkata Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata and Archaeological Survey of India site museums), this year too, 20 participants are undergoing training currently. “This is part of a long term vision of Ministry of Culture to nurture a cadre of mid–level to senior museum professionals to undertake museum reforms and create museums of international standards,” said Punja at the function.

The programme comprises three modules of two weeks each spread over a period of 5 months talking about the concept of leadership and its manifestations in a museum leader, creation of a collection policy (acquisition policy, exchange and loan policy and exhibition policy), steps necessary for preventive conservation, design and interpretation of exhibitions, tour of successful exhibitions in UK, evaluation of good exhibitions, writing exhibition briefs and captions among others.

Later the participants are expected to go back, implement what they learn at the sessions and organise smaller training programmes to train their fellow colleagues in their museums. The NCF will monitor their performance.

Recalling the experience of LTP –I, Rajesh Purohit, director of Allahabad Museum stated at the event, “Indian museums have fantastic collections but they need to improve their presentation through good design and interpretation. They need to organise more and more public programmes to make these collections accessible and popular for different kinds of audiences. Museums also need a lot of specialisation; one curator can’t do everything. They need designers, managers, marketing professionals, organisers, writers, performing arts managers who can engage with audiences and a whole lot of skills to uplift them. They need to expand their staff base and have specialisations and division of work.”