Changing face of Indian museums, my experience at the International Museum Expo 2023

Sushim Mukul
Sushim MukulMay 23, 2023 | 08:30

Changing face of Indian museums, my experience at the International Museum Expo 2023

Indian Museums are pivotal to India's soft power diplomacy. (Photo Credit: Sushim Mukul)

I visited the International Museum Expo 2023, organised by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, on the third and the final day (May, 20).

The three-day expo, inaugurated by PM Modi, was aimed at starting a comprehensive discussion about museums, encouraging them to develop into cultural hubs that have a significant role in India's cultural diplomacy, especially during a year when India is leading the G20 Presidency.


What did the expo showcase?

The two halls at Pragati Maidan had museums and galleries on their display, their finest collections, works and achievements. The expo also hosted children's activities like interactive games, a museum on wheels, panel discussions and conservation labs and tech companies working in this domain. 

The expo had panel discussions and kid's play area. (Photo Credit: Sushim Mukul)
  • The Indian Navy's exhibition of warship replicas, multimedia content about the navy's museums in India, and VR- simulations of steering a ship attracted young and old alike.
VR-enabled galleries are attractive to museums and visitors alike. (Photo Credit: Sushim Mukul)
  • A 3D hologram showing the Dancing Girl from Mohenjodaro go round and round (Indus-Sarasvati Civilization's icon) was a crowd-puller too.
The bronze figure was cast in a lost-wax cast and dates back between 2300–1750 BC. (Photo Credit: Sushim Mukul))
  • There also was a curated 'star collection' of original statues, paintings and other artefacts on display, like a regular Indian museum, but let me tell you the gallery was stunning.
On display, pattachitra, a Gond bronze art and a percussion instrument. (Photo Credit: Sushim Mukul)
  • Another small kiosk that caught my eye was the one by the South Western Railway zone where banners displayed the shooting of Shankar Nag's Malgudi Days in Agumbe, Karnataka. The station now houses a museum too celebrating the show and its connection with the tiny station. They also had a Mysuru Maharaja salon replica on display.
Maharaja of Mysore and his family used three salons like this to travel in their kingdom. (Photo Credit: Sushim Mukul)
  • Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)'s interactive initiative of hands-on experience of excavations with pits and trenches dug up, got kids really excited. The participants were handed over a certificate of participation for the experience too. I even overheard a lady talking about how this experience made her realise that archaeologists don't just find stuff roaming around a site
Kids enjoying the excavation zone set up by the ASI. (Photo Credits: Sushim Mukul)
  • An in-site conservation lab consisting of leading labs from the public as well as the private sector, in heritage conservation, had their equipment and machines out for display to showcase different conservation techniques to the visitors.
Tools and chemicals used in art conservation. (Photo Credit: Sushim Mukul)
  • A corner of the Kolkata Institute of Art Conservation (KIAC) portrayed their tryst with Pattachitra conservation techniques and associated challenges. Ms Keerat from KIAC walked me through the demands of art collectors and the ethical issues faced by contemporary art conservators.
Coconut skulls(maala) are used to store Natural pigments by Pattachitra artists. (Photo Credits: Sushim Mukul)
  • ReReeti Foundation housed a digital immersive exhibit called  'Undivided Identities', set in 1947. The 30-minute long choice-based experience, where one could be a character during the partition and had to choose from options to survive.  
  • XR Central, an interactive tech studio, having worked with Lucknow Super Giants Fan Zone and The India Art Fair, is looking to make museum experiences immersive by making meta-enabled guessing games, monument walkthroughs, etc. I really hope the concept of AR-enabled museums takes up fast in India. Another AR Enabled museum is the Pradhanmantri Sanghrahalaya in New Delhi.
XR Central's Indian Museum Tycoon is India's first online museum game. (Photo Credit: Sushim Mukul)
  • Tagbin's' Teleportation Bus'(Museum on Wheels) attracted a long queue for obvious reasons. The bus would let eighteen passengers in and take you on a cruise past your favourite cities and monuments through VR enabled by seamless 4k displays, replacing the windows.
The Museum on Wheels also has a sunroof to view the sky outside. (Photo Credit: Sushim Mukul))
  • Being a cricket fan, the showstopper for me was the Badges of Glory museum's corner. I was in awe to find so many cricket-related memorabilia on display. Fans like me took turns to get photos of jerseys of MS Dhoni, Kohli and Tendulkar's bat.
The corner also had signed jerseys of Kapil Dev and McGrath in its collection. (Photo Credit: Sushim Mukul))

Overall, the expo was an enriching one. I got acquainted with the recent trends and technologies in the field of excavation, conservation and museology.  For the next edition, however, I would expect more foreign participants who would facilitate knowledge exchange and dialogue. Increasing the use of technology for the showcasing of artefacts and experiences is a welcome change. But it makes me wonder about the immense possibilities technology can unlock in the field.

Last updated: May 23, 2023 | 08:30
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