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Make Museums a National Priority With Access For All

India needs to have not just better museums but lots of them as they are great places to learn about our history and as well as shared cultural legacy

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“You need to know your history to understand your world today and walk confidently into the future,” my father said these words to me when I first visited the City Palace Museum in Jaipur with him serving as my guide. Every time I walk into a museum, these words ring true.

From an early age, I've been fortunate to explore some of the most prestigious and best-run museums across the world. It was enthralling for me to visit the Louvre in Paris, the Vatican Museum in Vatican City, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum in London. I have also made multiple learning trips to the National Museum in Delhi, the Mehrangarh Fort Museum in Jodhpur, the City Palace Museum in Jaipur and the Indian Museum in Kolkata. It is thanks to my parents that I got exposed to this wonderful world.

Initially, I lacked interest in spending time in museums but as I began to see and learn, it gradually developed into a deep interest. As time went by, I started to make the connection between what I absorbed in museums and my curriculum-based learning at school. I have become deeply committed to visiting as many museums as I can and opening this world for others through providing them physical and virtual access.

A Place to Learn History

Museums are a fantastic place to learn about history and celebrate our shared cultural legacy. However, a museum is not only a collection of artifacts related to history. Every subject of human civilisation has a museum of its own such as geology, zoology, botany, music, war, sports, computers, art and many more. There are thousands of museums worldwide that display fascinating exhibits. China is striving to become a global leader in this area and so are countries in the Middle East such as the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

Being at a museum is an experience that needs to be enjoyable, the learning and knowledge that comes with it is truly enriching. My good fortune in visiting museum all over the world, an enthusiasm I now share with my family, left me wondering, “Do we, in India, not deserve better museums and a greater number of museums?” The answer is a resounding yes. A museum is more than a place to see an assortment of treasures. It sparks off a curiosity within us, motivating and provoking us to learn more.

The personal experience of exploring a museum should be incredibly rewarding, and it is crucial for museums to improve their visitor experiences and appeal to the inner child in all of us. A remarkable story of transformation has been witnessed at two great Mumbai institutions namely the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya at Kala Ghoda, Fort and the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Byculla. They are the oldest museums in Mumbai and their revival is an example for all museums to emulate.

There are many children who have not had the privilege of visiting museums and experiencing the enrichment. I believe this can change. I am taking the initiative to let more kids of my generation – especially those who come from less privileged backgrounds – experience museums with the same enthusiasm as I and am hoping they will pass on this experience to others. I am making a small endeavour to try and organise learning trips and curated experiences for young students who are unexposed to the world of museums. I believe technology ought to be leveraged to democratise museum accessibility. I am convinced it will have transformational effects on our society.

Technology As a Facilitator

As an Indian, I have a deep pride in our rich cultural heritage and civilisation. It is an area where we have much to showcase to the world. I believe we should aspire to become a 'Museum Superpower.' With the advancements in internet-based technology, we have the opportunity to bring the world of museums to many more young students regardless of their socio-economic status. Remote access to immersive museum experiences is now possible, which can revolutionise the way we learn.

Museums have the potential to be not just places of learning, but also social hubs and extensions of schools. They offer a unique group learning experience that cannot be found elsewhere. When I visited Dholavira in Gujarat with my classmates we were experiencing a unique civilisation because it records continuous settlement at one given place for over 1,500 years from pre‐Harappan to late Harappan period between 3000-1500 BCE. A small but very focused museum collection brought alive this city that ended its existence some 3,500 years ago. The joy of group discussion and socialisation was unique and remains etched in my mind.

I believe that each person who visits a museum comes out a better person and that this has the potential to shape our future. How can you help to further my cause? Start by spending a day at your nearest museum.

Arihan is a student of Class 8 at The Bombay International School. He has a keen and developing interest in Indian history

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Magazine 20 May 2023

Arihan Singh

Arihan Singh is a student of Class 8 at The Bombay International School. He has a keen and developing interest in Indian history. His mission is to bring alive the power of museums as a platform for learning.

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