On a recent trip to Odisha, an eastern state in India, that is rich in tribal art and craft, I visited the Tribal Art Museum in Bhubaneshwar, the capital of the state. While the state is full of rich culture and crafts of the ancient adivasis or native tribes with their culture, art and craft still visible, the museum was such a let down.
Museums in India, especially government museums, tend to be free or cheap and are under-funded. As such they don’t invest much money into proper display and archiving of work. Neither do they invest in curators who can transform a museum from a dull archive to a place of learning and exploration.
Again typical of India — the museum collection was inspiring and fairly comprehensive but their presentation was far from that. An employee remarked that some foreign tourists have even offered $50 to 100 to help fund the museum but they could not accept any money due to bureaucratic red tape.
While a museum is supposed to be a place of learning, this was far from that. They forbid photography, sketching and even writing. And they had someone follow me everywhere and even tell me where to go next! When I asked that person about a certain artifact, they had no clue.
Museums in India especially this one makes me sad. Their content is rich, but their rules and lack of curatorial guidance makes it a sad place to be at. I was even told by one of the museum employees that westerners have offered then $50 and more as a donation but they are not allowed by the government to charge a fee. No money of course, means no curator.
I wish we could learn a thing or two from the west in the way they even make the most banal topic interesting, interactive and evocative.
In India, a museum is seen as an archive, but surely it is more than that — it should be the cradle of learning and understanding a topic. It should create a sense of sacredness a place of worship of our ancestors of our collective human experience.
A building or place where works of art, scientific specimens, or other objects of permanent value are kept and displayed.
Origin: 1605–15; < Latin mūsēum place sacred to the Muses, building devoted to learning
or the arts.