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‘Museum officials warrant elastic mind in changed era’

‘Museum officials warrant elastic mind in changed era’
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What the functionaries of museums need today 'is an elastic mind' that would boost the 'educational value' of such grand institutions, the octogenarian scholar noted in a talk she gave at National Museum in the capital.

'Museums should make the invisible visible. Equally, they should make the visible more visible,' she said in the Eighth NM lecture titled The Museum Experience. Substantiating, Thapar emphasised that curators of museums should be more alert to new developments in the world of history. For instance, labels describing an artifact on display should get their literature updated if latest discoveries have lent them a fresh dimension and relevance, she pointed out.

In this context, the speaker attributed near-absence of such fine-tuning to lack of vision on the part of top officials of heritage institutions. 'Administrators (wrongly) assume they are specialists in museums and their management,' remarked Thapar.

Delving deeper into the 'big challenge' of updating of labels, she said it was high time museums made better use of state-of-the-art technologies that could explain objects on public display. 'It is not that every gallery should put up lengthy texts. Electronic devices can be employed so that the interested visitor gets access to the finer points that narrate more about items,' she said, adding that providing copious background material to the discerning was more vital than taking out guided tours.
Laxity in taking steps in the country has been leading to the failure in the museums’ prime mission of projecting Indian civilisation, she regretted.

Noting that heritage gave a nation its ancestry, Thapar said museum artifacts in a modern era no more catered to pleasing the whims of colonial masters. As 2014 marks two centuries of museum history in India, the country should make best use of passing on its proud legacy to the public at large, pointed out the 82-year-old expert, who has been a visiting professor at Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania and the College de France in Paris.

Thapar spoke at the packed auditorium on how museums in India were initially a colonial imposition and seldom showed signs of growing beyond individual collections. The lecture also delineated on the fine line between art and craft, and noted that museums today have galleries on increasingly new areas of heritage such as textiles and decorative objects.
 
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