Victoria Memorial Hall awed by rural Rajasthan museum
Kolkata: The authorities of Victoria Memorial Hall on Friday have drawn inspiration from a remarkable small museum — Arna-Jharna, the desert museum in Rajasthan that uses brooms as a metaphor for life in the desert and seeks public engagement with the folk culture and oral traditions of the locality.
Noted research scholar and cultural
critic Rustom Bharucha, who had been the project director in the early stages of the making of the eco-museum delivered an informal talk titled "Grassroots Museology in the Indian Context: The Making of Arna-Jharna," highlighted his experience in the unique museum located in a rural area near Jodhpur in Rajasthan.
The lecture was organised to observe the International Museum Day that falls on Saturday, May 18.
"Every year we offer free admission to our museum and gardens on International Museum Day. At the same time, we also
organise something or the other that offers some food for thought for the museum
sector, some significant takeaway for those who love museums, and work in or think about them.
"We have earlier listened to and learnt from some of the world leaders in this field, coming from such iconic museums such as the British Museum, the Georges Pompidou Centre and the Smithsonian.
"However, this year, we wanted to have knowledge about a small rather unconventional museum – Arna-Jharna," said Jayanta Sengupta, secretary and curator of Victoria Memorial Hall .
According to Sengupta, Arna-Jharna is among those rare specialty museums that seek, with very limited or no government support, to capture the voices of the small, the marginal, the peripheral.
"In my opinion, it stands to capture our many pasts and complex presents much more effectively, and with the necessary criticality that is much more difficult for encyclopedic museums to emulate," he said.
Envisioned by the renowned folklorist and ethnomusicologist Komal Kothari, and supported by a team of practitioners affiliated to Rupayan Sansthan, this unique museum focuses on one particular object — the broom — to reflect on traditional knowledge systems and their sustenance in today's world.
The talk elaborated on the research that went into making the broom at botanical, environmental, social, and political levels and provided insights into the curatorial challenges of representing the broom.
The lecture was paired with the screening of a documentary film, Jhadu Katha (Broom Stories), directed by Navroze Contrator, which was specially commissioned by the museum.
"A handful of tourists on a trip to Rajasthan visit this museum because people are unaware of it which is located some 15 odd kilometers from Jodhpur," Sengupta said.