Tagore National Fellow Annual Lecture series of IGRMS

The museum is capable of creating a new future image for communities - Prof. Kishor K. Basa

On Today, under the Annual Lecture series of Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS), Bhopal Prof. Kishor K. Basa, Tagore National Fellow and Ex-Director of IGRMS Bhopal delivered a lecture on Anthropology and Museums in India: Trends and Trajectories (in the form of a webinar) via facebook. At the beginning of the program, Shri Dilip Singh, Joint Director, IGRMS Introduced the Prof. Basa.

Professor Basa's told that his lecture comprised three sections. In the first section he discussed anthropology and museums during the colonial period from 1784 to 1947, the period which witnessed the emergence of anthropology and museums in India as distinct disciplines.  While anthropology (it was also known as ethnology) was initiated to understand the 'native' cultures in order to enable the British for an effective administration, museums developed to act as a repository of the material cultures collected from various 'native' communities. The establishment of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Kolkata in 1784 laid the foundation for such studies in India. Basa gave examples of two leading colonial museums. While Indian Museum, set up in 1814 was one of the oldest museums in the world, Madras Museum was set up in 1851. By demonstrating the native communities and their material culture as culturally inferior to the 'civilised' Europeans, both anthropology and museum during the colonial period provided legitimacy to the British rule in India. Basa argued that museum visit as a part of pilgrimage to Kolkata by rural folks of India during colonial period is a typical Indian response to a concept (i. e. Museum) brought from the West. He also showed how Viceroy Lord Curzon (1899-1905) also added to the collection in Indian Museum.

In the second section, he discussed Anthropology and Museums in India from 1947 till to date under two sub-headings: museums directly relating to anthropology and museums with anthropological perspectives. The former has four sub-categories: (a) IGRMS, Bhopal at a national level, (ii) State Museum with anthropology as a section, (iii) Tribal Museums in State Tribal Research Institutes, and (iv) anthropology museums in various universities. Recently, a number of museums have come up in India with anthropological perspectives with challenging concepts. Such museums have been set up by individuals, communities and civil societies. While 'Remember Bhopal Museum' has not taken any grant from the government and has been set up by members of civil society, activists and victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy on its 30th anniversary in 2014, the Partition Museum, established in Amritsar in 2017 showcases the trauma of partition as well as how people have coped with it. The making of both these museums was initiated not to house an already available collection as is usually the case of a museum. On the contrary, collection of oral history preceded the collection of relevant  artefacts for both these museums. Besides, he also discussed a number of interesting museums in different parts of the country. These include the Peace Museum at Imphal (set up in 2019) as a mark of remembrance of the Second World War in Manipur between British and Japanese forces and the resilience of Manipuris, the Arna Jharna Museum near Jodhpur with its unique broom and musical instrument collection, Vacca, a museum near Tejgarh, Gujarat giving voice to the tribal people, interesting open air museums like Dakshina Chitra near Chennai and Janapada Loka in Ramnagar district of Karnataka, Gurusaday Museum of Kolkata with a rich collection of kantha of undivided Bengal.

In the third section he spoke on the implications of COVID - 19 for museum anthropology. Citing examples of some museums and exhibitions in USA, he pointed out that museums can be a good platform for creating awareness about Covid- 19 and preventing the occurrence of rumour. Basa suggested that after the Pandemic will be over, IGRMS should put up an exhibition and then possibly a separate Pandemic Gallery or Museum which could deal with people’s response to COVID 19 in terms of diversity of masks, the unique methods developed by people for maintaining social distance, production of literature both serious and humourous and, not the least, the question of unemployment, domestic violence, migration labour – whose magnitude is being compared with that of days of Partition.

Prof. Basa ended his lecture by quoting Janes and Grattan (2019) who have said,   “museums are not intended to resolve global problems, but in a position to invent a new future for themselves and their communities and help create an image of a desirable future – the essential first step in its realization”.

At the end of the program, He gave the answer the questions of the people who connected through Facebook and around many people saw the lecture, thanked for this.

Updated date: 23-06-2020 09:26:03