“The artefacts need somebody to speak for them, to tell their story and narratives,” said Neil Macgregor, Director of the British Museum, on Friday, while noting the importance of training curators in the context of Indian museums.
“I’m surprised that despite having an extraordinary collection of artefacts, Indian museums are not visited. Museums must be made public centric; who’s allowed to see the artefacts is more important that who’s keeping them.”
Mr. Macgregor spoke to The Hindu at Allahabad Museum — one of the five National Museums under the Ministry of Culture — where he attended the second annual museum Leadership Training Programme an initiative of the Ministry of Culture, in its bid to modernise Indian museums, in collaboration with the British Museum. He later delivered the Pandit Brij Mohan Vyas Memorial speech there. Drawing a parallel on the lack of investment on training staff in India and Britain, he said: “Training staff of the public service organisations has been slow in both countries. There is no enthusiasm in investing on people, in training them and developing their skills. In modern times, there’s a need to teach them other skills as well, such as marketing and fundraising.”
Mr. Macgregor, who in 1999 declined the offer of a knighthood, stressed the importance of exhibitions and events in a museum’s repertoire to keep the visitors interested.
To break away from the notions of being called dull, store houses of artefacts, should “take the objects out of the museums; let the people touch them, if it’s safe!”
“We had once organised a contest to find the most interesting teddy bear. So we asked people to send the CVs of their teddy bears. And interestingly, the contest drew thousands of entries. We also organised events on the Haj and the Durga Puja, things we can’t see in London,” he said.
This year, the British Museum is training 20 curators from the Archaeological Survey of India and museums across India as part of this training programme. The curators will spend two weeks each in Allahabad, Delhi and London, said Rajesh Purohit, Director, Allahabad Museum.