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In 2011, UNESCO published a scathing report on the appalling conditions at India’s top eight museums, citing sub-standard maintenance, lighting and signage, among other issues. As Madhumita Srinivasan wrote last month in relation to irreversible damage at Kolkatta’s Indian Museum, “At the core are deep-rooted issues of archaic policies, lack of autonomy, and no skilled manpower. Our excellent collections are proof of a rich socio-cultural history, but when museums act as mere closed-door guardians of treasures instead of disseminating them, attractively and intelligently, to a wide audience, they lose their purpose.
‘The museum building and facilities visibly lack maintenance. The lift is not operational, spotlights have no bulbs, wall paint has peeled off and the auditorium has tattered seats…. Proper signage is missing for each gallery. And despite the size of the museum, there isn’t enough space for people to sit and relax.’ This was UNESCO assessment of National Museum in New Delhi .
However since Dr. Venu Vasudevan IAS took charge as the Director General of National Museum, National gallery reopened six galleries that had stayed closed for years to and refashioned the rotunda at the heart of the Museum as a garden cafe. In 2014, it organized ‘The Body in Indian Art’, an extraordinary showcase of 300 artefacts culled from 44 collections, all put together to explore the place and meaning of ‘the body’ over 4,000 years of artistic endeavour. The show signalled an image makeover of sorts for the National Museum as it continues to strive for greater visibility, and attempts to stay relevant at a time when museums around the world are redefining their existence to become active intellectual and social spaces.
The Open Magazine reports “Today, the Museum shop has expanded to include more replicas, guide books, catalogues and other scholarly publications; previously unusable washrooms have been spruced up; there are more coolers for drinking water; half the exhibition galleries today have LED lights. The volunteer guide scheme, under which trained volunteers lead clueless visitors on informed tours of the Museum, has been a runaway success since it was first introduced in 2013. A whistle-stop tour can be had with the aid of a funky yellow guide book called The Museum in Ninety Minutes. In addition, there are fancier guide books that run into hundreds of pages”
The Hindu wrote that, “Delhi’s National Museum was lucky to get IAS officer Dr. Venu Vasudevan, under whom it has transformed into a buzzing institution. In 2013, when he took over as Director General, the museum, which has 2.10 lakh artefacts representing 5,000 years of Indian art, saw a 30 per cent increase in visitors. Last year, it saw a 112 per cent increase in merchandise sales”.
We know personally how we started recommending National Museums to our Delhi bound travelers in the last few months. As a travel company we could finally take our travelers to a museum of international quality. For those have been to many fabulous museums of the West, our National Museum is still a far cry, but changes were more than visible. For the first time in fifty years we are hearing about a museum that’s friendly towards differently abled. Dr. Venu led the way to make it accessible to the local population as well. This summer Musuem is opening to children! This was stuff of dream for a place like New Delhi!
Now we see that he has been transferred from the to the Sports Ministry. We understand the need for Government to move an efficient officer like him elsewhere, but this for sure is at the cost of any development work that started at the National Museum. We request you to join this petition on CHANGE.ORG if you want to see sustainable impact in the work so far!
Copyright 2014 The Blue Yonder