National

Museum acquisition policy on the anvil

A view of the National Museum in New Delhi. File photo: S. Subramanium

A view of the National Museum in New Delhi. File photo: S. Subramanium  

The `Draft Policy for the Acquisition of Art Objects and Antiquities by the Museums’ has been drawn up to keep a commitment made by the Government in 2013.

In a bid to plug the absence of a "consistent policy for acquisition and valuation of artefacts," the Union Culture Ministry has drafted a policy document to plan and regulate the process for all museums under it.

The `Draft Policy for the Acquisition of Art Objects and Antiquities by the Museums’ has been drawn up to keep a commitment made by the Government in 2013 after a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) recommended that institutions should evolve a coherent acquisition policy.

Though the CAG recommendation was for institutions to evolve their own policy, the Ministry has opted to come out with a one-size-fits-all document that was initially prepared by the National Museum for its own purpose. When it was sent to the Ministry for approval, the Museum was asked to draw up general acquisition guidelines for all museums.

Explaining the rationale for such a policy, the draft states that museum acquisitions till date lacked ``coherence and focus’’ and were made from field collections, gifts, donations and ``reflect past collecting practises and curatorial preferences, evolving social and cultural tastes, and the origins’’ of the institutions. ``A written policy will facilitate compliance with legal, ethical and professional requirements and standards, and will also ensure transparency of the acquisition process as well as provide a legal framework for actions to be taken for acquisition of art, antiquities and other museum objects.’’

Acquisitions should be made only as per need and ought to be governed by quality and not quantity, according to the draft. Art museums should be encouraged to acquire works of international art. ``It is crucial that museums should view art with an international perspective rather than conditioned by a narrow political outlook.’’ Further, museums should evolve a practical system of borrowing works of art on a long-term basis from private collectors or autonomous institutions. It is also open to accepting reasonable demands from donors for acknowledgement.

The Performance Audit of Preservation and Conservation of Monuments and Antiquities by CAG found that no benchmarks or standards were followed for acquisition and valuation of artefacts. ``As a result, decisions relating to acquisitions were often arbitrary. We noticed that the Victoria Memorial Hall, Salar Jung Museum and National Museum did not purchase any artefact during the period covered under audit,’’ the CAG report said. The report came out in 2013.

Even among the three museums where acquisitions had been made in the same period, only Asiatic Society (Kolkata) had a purchase policy in place which was revised every two years. The other two museums which had made acquisitions -- Allahabad Museum and Indian Museum – had no such policy.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 1:56:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/policy-for-acquisition-of-art-and-artefacts-for-museums-on-the-anvil/article6808265.ece

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