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Friday, May 18, 2018

As the world celebrates International Museum Day, Mumbai joins in with panel discussions and a host of fun-filled family activities

Friday, May 18, is International Museum Day, an event organised by The International Council of Museums (ICOM) since 1977; the goal is to increase public awareness of the role of museums in the development of society. It’s been gaining momentum and last year saw more than 36,000 museums hosting events in some 156 countries. This year, the theme is “Hyperconnected Museums: New Approaches, New Publics”.

As the Council of Museums points out, museums are an inherent part of their local communities, cultural landscape and natural environment. “Thanks to technology, museums can now reach way beyond their core audience and find new publics when approaching their collections in a different way: it can be the digitalisation of their collections, adding multimedia elements to the exhibition or something as simple as a hashtag that allows visitors to share their experience in social media,” they say.

In Mumbai, certainly, museums have been finding ways to connect with the community. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) came up with the Museum on Wheels in 2014-15, with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Citi India. Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Director General, CSMVS says:  “One objective of the education service extension was—‘if you cannot come to te museum, the museum can come to your doorstep’. In the past couple of years, the CSMVS could connect with over a million people outside the city through its extension services. The programme has created a model in the country for other museums to follow.”

This year, on International Museum Day, CMSVS is conducting several open activities and the Museum will allow free entry for children below 12 years on the day. (For details, write to [email protected]) A special highlight is a performance by Shubha Mudgal at the CSMVS in collaboration with CrossBow Miles and the initiative to raise awareness about girl child safety and women's empowerment.​​

Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum at Byculla is celebrating International Museum Day with day-long free family activities, with separate and Marathi sessions for each activity. These include a ‘'Scavenger Hunt' that involves clues and riddles to help participants engage with the Museum's collection. (Enquiries on [email protected]) In addition to Museum Day activities, there is also the Museum Katta | Marathi Film Festival: Retrospective of selected films by Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukathankar, a week-long event that ends on May 20.

Tasneem Mehta, the Museum's Managing Trustee and Honorary Director, says: “The Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum is Mumbai's oldest Museum, first opened to the public in 1857... Museums play an important educational role and are a space to open up conversations about many different topics. In a crowded city like Mumbai where space is highly contested, public spaces like the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, which is historic, beautiful and green, offer an opportunity to people from diverse age groups and backgrounds to learn while having fun.” The Museum has a range of outreach programmes, including workshops, film screenings, public lectures, theatre and music performances that are free or at prices that make them accessible to all.

The magnificent National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Mumbai, at Fort, which also regularly hosts a variety of events, is celebrating the occasion with a panel discussion, Multipolis Mumbai: Art & Technology in the City (6 p.m. onwards), focusing on the collaborative synergies between the two and how artists and cultural institutions are harnessing the power of tech.

The event is being held in collaboration with Avid Learning and participants include Shishir Jayant, Head, Business Development - India & South East Asia at Google, Prof Sumant Rao, IDC, IIT Bombay, Leena Kejriwal, Artist and Founder of the MISSING Campaign and Shivaprasad Khened, Director at Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai and National Gallery of Modern Art Mumbai.

Their ongoing in-house exhibition Dhvani se Sabd aur Chinh exhibition is also worth a visit; it is open till June 17. Curated by Adwaita Gadanayak, Director-General NGMA, this is an ensemble of artists and sculptors who belong to India’s Southern States—among them Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury, K. C. S. Paniker, K. G. Subramanyan and A. Ramachandran.

While museums are often designed to appeal to aesthetic and intellectual considerations, they serve other purposes as well; as Orhan Pamuk, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, notes: “A museum should not just be a place for fancy paintings but should be a place where we can communicate our lives through our everyday objects.”

In New Delhi, there’s the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, which educates visitors about the evolution of toilets since 2500 BC; this has received the 2018 TripExpert Experts' Choice Award. According to their website, this award is based on over one million reviews from 85 publications and recognises the best attractions around the world; it also states that fewer than two per cent of attractions worldwide receive this.

Across the world, there are museums with other quirky themes, such as Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, Japan, which tells you about cup noodles. Then there’s the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia, conceptualised by Onlika Visitica and Drazen Grubisic, where you can contribute personal items from former relationships, such as photographs, letters and messages.

Even stranger is the Avanos Hair Museum, created by Chez Galip, a Turkish potter, which has hair samples of over 16,000 women displayed in a small, dark cave-like room. The next time you visit Turkey, perhaps you can donate your own hair; apparently they offer pencils, paper, pins and scissors to those wanting to add to the collection!

The world is full of strange and awe-inspiring museums and you can visit them virtually—though this can never compare with actually stepping into these institutions. In India, the Ministry of Culture is in the process of digitising museums and ten of these are now online. Log on to http://museumsofindia.gov.in/repository/home for more. Also check out Google’s https://artsandculture.google.com

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