In a way the premier museums are the destinations where world meet to display the cultural properties of many civilizations for the enjoyment of the global population. A modest survey of various facts of culture and heritage including a brief account of the great civilizations and the designated world heritage sites, the developing museological techniques and the increasing challenges faced by the museums has been incorporated in this book.
Besides, the various factors of globalization, marketing economy, antiquarian laws, copyright, illicit trafficking, the process of determining the age of antiques as also the fakes and forgery, vandalism and disaster concerns are common to all kinds of museums and their audience.
The monograph covers all these aspects in nutshell for the benefit of the students, museum professionals and the interested readership. The book is illustrated with an album of sixty-four colour photographs of rare distinction.
An Indologist of wide acclaim and a scholar specializing in art, iconography, epigraphic studies and museology, Dr. Chakravarti had his debut in the museum world in 1966 and finally short up to the exalted position of the Director-Secretary, Indian Museum (1997-2004).He had is UNESCO training in museum method in japan (1983) and Museum Management training organized by Govt. of India from the Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad (1994). Dr. Chakravarti received a special honour from the Institute Cultural Cabanas, Mexico for his contribution in the field of museum- education (1986), Syed Muztaba Ali literary award for the best belletrist of the year (1978) and Rashtriya Vikas Jyoti award for his services to art, culture and museum science (1999).
Dr. Chakravarti held additional charge of the Director, National Library of India (2001-2003) and had assumed the office of the Honorary Executive Secretary of the Gurusaday Museum of Folk Art (1995-2004). He was also awarded the Senior Visiting Fellowship at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC by the Smithsonian Institute, USA (2004); AND THE Fellowship in Museology of the Rabindra Bharati University (205-06). He been elected Chairman, Indian National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) for terms during 2000-2006. Presently he is the Chairman, Bhaskar Bhavan Administration & Maintenance Trust and the Trustee, Kolkata International Foundation for Arts, Literature & Culture.
He has author many valuable titles which include Patralekha: romance of letter writing in Indian art and literature; Descriptive catalogue of Prakrit of Prakrit and Sanskrit inscriptions in the Indian Museum; Wood and metal effigies of Nagaland; Wood carving in the Gurusaday Museum; Kalighat painting in the Gurusaday Museum; Bengal terracotta in the Indian Museum; The Baddhas and The Festival of Durga. He has the credit of editing the update and annotated volume of the history of the Indian Museum (1814-2004); Vinayatoshini-a compilation of essays on Indology, art and alternative medicine; Select work of Benoytosh Bhattacharya; Raja Rajendralala Mitra-a centenary obit; Mahatma Gandhi in mural.
Rabindranath valued museum as a most effective ‘knowledge house’ for the general masses and the intelligentsia as well. The Tagore Museum housed at Jorasanko Thakurbari, Kalokata has been a place of cultural pilgrimage for enlightened mind and a noble seat of convergence of tradition and modernity. Five decades of it existence present a colourful history of interface between the Rabindra Bharati University and the world outside. A Department of Museology has come up in recent years to augment the process in academic terms. It is gratifying to note that intellectual luminaries and stalwarts in the field have agreed to contribute to these enterprise. Publication of a series of lectures by Dr. Shyamalkanti Cahkravarti, the veteran museologist is surely a new feather added to the crowning success of the Tagore Museum. The University community thanks the author and takes pride in presenting the book to the world of scholarship.
The monograph embodies the modified version of the Fellowship lectures delivered by the author at the newly set up December 2005 to February 2006. Our aim was to partly cover the post graduate syllabus of the University with a purport of widening the scope of the discourse in the event of recent global experimentations in the field of museums. A modest survey of facets of culture and heritage, the developing museological techniques and the increasing challenges faced by these institutions has been incorporated in the book.
In a way the premier museums are the destinations where world meet to display the cultural properties of many civilizations for the enjoyment of the global population.
Besides, the various factors of globalization, marketing economy, antiquarian laws, copyright, illicit trafficking, fakes and forgery, vandalism and disaster concerns are common to all kinds of museums and their audience. The monograph covers all these aspects in nutshell for the benefit of the students, museum professionals and the interested readership.
The author is beholden to the authorities of the Rabindra Bharati University, specially the Vice Cahncellor Prof. Dr Karunasindhu Das for kindly agreeing to publish the series of this Fellowship lecture.
Dr. S.K. Ghorai, former Registrar, Dr. Tapati Mukherjee, Registrar and Dr Amit Kumar Mukhopadhyay, Finance Officer also deserve out thanks.
Smt. Sipra Chakravarti, former Keeper, Department of Fine Arts and Crafts, Indian Museum rendered valuable service providing me with information on relevant aspects of art.
The author and the publisher are grateful to various museums, organizations and publishing concerns as also the contributors to the Internet for making available the photographs and relevant information.
I acknowledge my sincere thanks to Smt. Indrani Ghosh, Curator, Rabibndra Baharati Museum and the Coordinator of the Museology Department of the University for providing me all the facilities during my Fellowship tenure. My thanks are also due to Srimati Tulasimanjari Ganguli, Dr Baishakhi Mitra as well as the students and staff of the Department.
Sri Shyamal Sau of the Saraswati Printing Works deserves my thanks for making sincere efforts to print the monograph within a short span of time.
A nation writes its autobiography on its antiquarian remains and a museum preserves them for posterity. An ideal museum is that which presents part or the present, preserves Present for the for the future and promotes education and culture of the people living in a particular society.
According to a recent estimate recorded in the Museums of the World published from Germany there are over 41,000 museums of different categories spreading over 194 countries of the world.
The modern museum movement began in Europe with the establishment of the British Museum (1759) and in Asia when the Indian Museum (1814) was up at Calcutta.
The museums in Europe as we know today had made its appearance in the middle of the eighteenth century as one of the experiences of the two great intellectual movements of the time, namely the Renaissance and Enlightenment. The Renaissance created an interest in antiquity and the Enlightenment gave a new direction and new depth to man’s studies in nature and his own work. In India, the beginning of a museum in the second decade of the nineteenth century coincided with the end of mediaeval epoch and a social awakening that gave a new fillip to the scene of Indian life and history. Both in the occident and the orient – beginning from the days of feudal rule to its age of democratic aspirations, the museum mo0vement has traversed a long way to be able to suit the growing needs of the society.
Grace Morley has elaborated this point in the following passage of her book Museums Today, 1967.
‘One might say, as far as museums go, that the various revolutions, political and economic, from the eighteenth century onward, resulting in societies of more democratic type and of a more liberal and broader social pattern, together with development of international trade and the committant rise and expansion of a middle class, in most countries of the world during the nineteenth century, represented a stimulus to their growth, Museums were always very intimately the reflection of the development social ideas of their time and of their community’.
George Santayana, an American philosopher, teacher and writer once said – ‘an artist my visit a museum but only a pedant can live there.’ The aspiration of modern museums, however, is observe the pedant and the poet passing through its galleries with passion and purpose, Again, the museums in Indian were once compared with lady’s vanity bags containing all and sundry requisites haphazardly poured inside them. These repositories of human legacy of Indian nation therefore deserve overhauling- a systematic presentation of the artifacts with a view to fulfilling simultaneously their socio-symbolic role.
Museums in India in general have artifacts belonging to various religions and even different sects within the religious faiths. Therefore, in our country, the representation of cultural identity has been an important feature though the ultimate aim has remained an emphasis on unity in diversity better crystallized in two phrases of the Srimadbhagavadgita – avihaktam vibhaktesu. This aptly demonstrates the universal cultural consciousness of India.
Besides, an Indian poet has extolled the museum saying that it has a mesmerizing quality-the illusive imagery that draws both the onlooker and the interested together. More or less a similar voice has been echoed when D H Lawrence, the author of Etruscan places and Mexico put it – ‘the museum is not a pace of curios only; it is a living contact with the masses’. A variety of educational programme, therefore can invite a pedant and a poet, the posh and the peasant to enjoy a grand feast at a common platform that is museum.
Fascinated by the peoples’ participation in the museums of Soviet Russia, our world poet Rabindranath Tagore called for educating the masses through a museum network: - ‘Among the different agencies through which they propagate knowledge and wisdom to the masses, the museum occupies an important position. These museums are active and have tried to involve each and every village and town through the network of their various educational programmes, (Russiar chithi October 3,1930). Another sixteenth century Indian Sufi poet Dadu’s quatrain should not be out of place here with reference to the philosophy of presentation of artifacts in the mauseum. The bard has appealed –gayeb ko rup de/ maun ko bhas de / de de prakash d / vani de prakash de // (Restore its form which is lost, help its muteness to speak, throew light on the dark, provide expressiveness and its glow.)
How is that world today different that of the early centuries? A brief survey of current affaire reveals the litany of disasters, wars and environmental concerns, along with the major museological events, new national museums, new building projects and exhibit ‘makeovers’, blockbuster exhibitions and their associated controversies. In the last two decades the world has seen the emergence of intangible heritage, cultural tourism, cultural landscapes, new media and the world wide web, and the convergence of education and entertainment, public and private, business and culture. A vast network of international cooperation and exchange point to a ‘focus on transnational and globalizing process in the museum and heritage spheres.’ The above is a summary of the essentials as pointed out by some scholars working on marketing and museography. In the following chapters of this monograph we shall deal with some of these new problems confronted and challenges accepted by the museums world over.
In fine, the museums are nevertheless the ultimat3e destination of an enquiring mind in search of his root or origin of an unknown culture. As George Bernard Sharnard Shaw interest the role of museum in his usual philosophic vein-‘ the museum is an educator of social consciousness, a historian of the future, an armoury against darkness and despair and a temple in the ascent of man”.
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