Dr. C. V. Ananda Bose, IAS, a Secretary level officer of the Government of India serving as the Administrator, National Museum, and Vice-Chancellor, National Museum Institute, has the spotlight firmly trained on him. Not surprising, for this bureaucrat heads the five-member panel appointed by the Supreme Court to assess the wealth in the cellars of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple.
Ananda Bose was not ready to reveal his findings but said that his mission was to make a scientific plan that would help assess the wealth in the vaults. When asked whether the artefacts of historical and archaeological value would be moved to a museum, he said, “That is one of the mandates of the Supreme Court. Assessing the value of these artefacts is tough. How can one put a price on these priceless antiques? In the National Museum, we have the famous Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro. What price can we put on something like this? It's only when we take some of them for exhibitions abroad, for the sake of insurance, that we put a price tag on them. We have now decided not to take the AA category artefacts out of the museum after one of them got damaged a bit,” informs Ananda Bose, who has consistently attempted to think out-of-the-box, made innovative decisions.
In his three plus decades in service Ananda Bose has proved that he is game for challenges and his administrative innovations, like Nirmithi Kendra, the cost-effective housing solution, that has won international recognition and the District Tourism Promotion Council have made a perceptible impact in society.
Yet, the latest appointment made him a bit apprehensive. But he got cracking quickly. He called on experts, understood the urgent needs and has now started work on a slew of projects. “The concept of museums is changing. Museums can longer be an abode of dead artefacts. They must function as a hub for disseminating knowledge, of cultural activities. We have embarked on projects that will transform our museums,” informs Ananda Bose.
One important project that Ananda Bose is piloting is the People's Museum. “As I said, museums should connect with the people. They must act as a bridge between the past and future through the present. Museum activities, as this project envisions, moves out of the limits of the secure museum space right into the middle of the people. There are three segments here, like the campus museums, community museums and the panchayats museum. The National Museum will provide these museums authenticated replicas to exhibit. But they will also have to replenish the stock by collecting antiques from within the local area that has relevance to the culture and heritage of the place.”
These museums will also function as a centre for cultural activities with performances from the local artistes, painting and sculpture workshops. Initiatives have been taken by various states including Kerala. Museums in the country, a large majority of them at least, lack basic visitor amenities. They do not have information desks, book and souvenir shops, audio tours, restaurants or cafes, ramps for the aged etc.
“Yes, this is true. We have now embarked on a mission to upgrade our museums. In fact, the National Museum is in the process of a makeover. It will be a complete renovation and our aim is to make it one of the best, internationally. We will include the best of talent in museology, architecture and interior decoration for this. Some of the other museums like the Chattrapati Sivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, Indian Museum, Kolkata, The Salarjung Museum, Hyderabad, and some others are also in the process of modernisation.”
Ananda Bose also hinted at some of the other innovations he proposed to introduce at these renovated museums. “We will make the museums barrier-free. There will be ramps to give easy access to the aged and physically challenged. We have already put in place a system to enable the visually-impaired to walk through and appreciate art at the National Museum. We have installed monograms, signs and Braille inscriptions to make objects in the museum visually-impaired-friendly. .”
Another significant project Anand Bose is working on is upgrading the National Museum Institute into a cultural university. “The proposal has been accepted by the Human Resource Development Ministry, a detailed project has been finalised; the department has given the go ahead. It requires legislation, detailing has to be done.” This is part of the two projects that are going to be upgraded, the other being the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Sports, Sriperumbudur.