In a rare recognition of academic research into the country’s rich cultural heritage, Union Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch presented 33 doctoral and 152 Master’s degrees at a convocation ceremony here on Monday for scholarly work ranging from studies of Old Delhi’s havelis to the country’s modern installation art.

Speaking at the 10 convocation ceremony of National Museum Institute of History of Art, Conservation & Museology, Janpath, the first in seven years and one in which degrees were conferred on graduates from Iran, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Canada and, of course, the host country, the Minister urged the graduates to retain in them a spirit of trusteeship while contributing substantially to their roots, society, the institutions that brought them up and the nation at large.

Set up on January 27, 1989, the NMI became a deemed to be university two months later. It has since become a centre of excellence for students in the field of art history, art preservation and musicology.

Pointing out that museums in the country have acted as custodians of art and culture, Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor said their activities should not be limited to only collect, preserve and share objects and materials of cultural, religious and historical importance. “In the 21 Century, museums need to strive to become agents of change and development.”

He said as institutions possessing critical resources in society, one of the fundamental objectives of museums was to impart cultural education effectively as it houses the tools and materials for doing so.

Arguing that a cultural capital may be viewed as a reservoir of tangible and intangible cultural expressions of a society, Dr. Tharoor said cultural activities and heritage materials could be introduced in a broader framework of economic development. “The major measurable economic impacts are: heritage tourism, job creation and household income, property appreciation and small business incubation,” he added.

Presenting his academic report at the convocation ceremony, NMI Vice-Chancellor and Culture Ministry Joint Secretary V. Venu said in a brief span of two decades, the institute has become a leading centre for study, interpretation and preservation of our nation’s cultural heritage.

“Here we promote community cohesion,” he said, adding that the NMI was also engaged in drafting a National Conservation Policy.

The NMI conducts training and capacity building programmes in museum education and intangible cultural heritage with international institutions like the UNESCO and globally renowned academic institutions such as the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, and the Kern Institute of the Netherlands.

Among the scholarly works that were awarded doctoral degrees were in areas like Deccani miniature paintings, provincial art and architecture of Kota, folk art of Bhils, Christian art of Goa, comparative study of traditional practices of palm leaf manuscripts in India and conservation of Indo-Islamic carpets.