Asia’s first museum was founded in India 200 years ago, but what is the role of the museum today?
‘International Conference and Intensive Seminar on Strategic Transformations: Museums In the 21st Century’ (10 to 14 February) was organised by the National Council of Science Museums in collaboration with Indian Museum, Kolkata, in association with British Council. Museum professionals from around the world had flown in to discuss the global trends and practices in museums.
A running theme in the discussions was the key role of a museum to foster mutual understanding and collaboration in our rapidly changing world. Museums have always been able to contribute to society by enabling visitors to understand society and culture, but as our world is moving faster than ever, museums are increasingly important spaces to foster cohesion and understanding.
The emergence of the ‘Community Museum’ is an interesting global development. There is a shift towards different attitudes to authority and ownership, which is nudged by the rise of social media and visitors’ expectations of greater participation and interaction. Community museums are run for and by the community. They curate objects, stories, and art that are most important to the local community. They tell the stories of the area and the museums have to be creative to meet the needs of the community. These types of museums can have an especially important role to play in areas with high levels of immigration or social exclusion. They are vibrant, social places where people can meet each other, express themselves and contribute to a larger cause together.
The role of a museum as a space for social cohesion and understanding is of course something to be applauded, but how does this happen in places such as post-conflict areas or countries as diverse as India?
Is this the right role for a museum? What do you think should be a role of a museum in our world today?
Post by: Emer Coyle, British Council India