Sunday Anchor

'Culture cannot be a punishment posting’

Six-year-old Eka Resources in Delhi is possibly the country’s only museum consultancy company. Its services range from archiving, documentation, conservation assessment, storage planning and risk assessment to design, curation, programming and outreach work. Sadly, Eka works only with private collections, finding it impossible to deal with government red tape. Eka MD Pramod Kumar K.G. talks to Vaishna Roy about the tragedy of Indian museums and what can make a change.

Tell us a bit about how you work.

Essentially, we do a maximum of documentation and archiving. Most private collections have old, hand-written registers. They have to sorted and put into digital form. We classify them, telling owners what is the 20 best pieces they have, what they ought to display and what they should put away. We create new catalogues. We also call in other experts, such as conservation architects, exhibition, lighting or graphic designers, conservators, to work with us on the big plan. We are like a one-stop shop that coordinates these services.

Do you organise funding?

Yes, we do help with that. We have built a network of contacts with cultural organisations globally and conservation funds. For instance, when we worked on the Udai Bilas Palace in Dungarpur, Rajasthan, we first helped to get it listed on the World Monument Fund. This opened up avenues for other potential funders to come on board.

Why won’t you work with government museums, which drastically need services like Eka’s?

They don’t work to deadlines or schedules. We are a small team, we make long-term commitments, sometimes for three-five years, and do work in phases. Government museums are tangled in bureaucracy, payments are delayed… However, we do individual exhibitions. For instance, we showcased the R.K. Bharany collection at the National Museum in Delhi. It had been donated to the museum in 1976 but put away in storage. We curated and displayed it for a month.

What according to you are the main problems our museums face?

Apathy. Dr. Venu Vasudevan is a rare exception but museums are headed by bureaucrats, sometimes from the Agriculture Department, who are just not interested. There is negligible training, and officials have no exposure to best practices. You first need a hiring policy, to bring in qualified candidates, then sustained training. There should be intensive workshops within India so that they can understand and control the challenges here. They have to learn how to control lighting, how to store different material, like textile, paper, or stone.

What is the one change you would like to see?

An overall vision for art and culture. Culture cannot be a punishment posting for IAS officers as it is today. We need a unified vision and a programme that can see reforms through the long term.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 7:42:22 AM |

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