Gandhimathi Mohana, Government Museum Chennai: Manchester Museum, Manchester Art Gallery and Whitworth Art Gallery
Gandhimathi Janakiraman Mohana, Curator, Government Museum Chennai, India
As my colleagues have already written in their blogs, the ITP summer program 2017 has been a wonderful experience for me too. I am extremely grateful to ITP organisers Rebecca Horton and Claire Messenger for rescheduling my flight twice and also sending John Stevenson to pick me up from Heathrow. I did miss the welcome party and introductory presentations from other fellows but I was updated about all the events very quickly by my partners. Since I had already undergone Leadership Training Programme for Indian Museum Professionals at BM in 2012, I was well aware of the rigorous and well structured schedules ahead.
I cannot believe that I have been away from home for almost six weeks!. Time flies so quickly. I have been attending so many presentations, exhibitions, special lectures, meeting people, visiting other museums in and around London. I am overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of the ITP organisers who have planned everything so meticulously taking into consideration each fellow’s subject interest in order to provide the maximum benefit. I am very much impressed by the system of UK Partner programme where the fellows are placed in another UK museum for ten days, to learn more intensely about their working systems. I had my placement at Manchester Art Gallery, Peoples History Museum, Manchester Museum and Whitworth Art Gallery from 17th to 26th July. My fellows were Irem (Turkey), Tapunga (New Zealand) and Mona (Malaysia).
The weather was fine throughout our stay at Manchester with rain at night – we were very lucky indeed! Rebecca accompanied us and we explored Manchester Art Gallery and John Ryland’s Library together.
Ronan Brindley, Principal Manager of Manchester Art Gallery took the utmost care of us to make us feel at home. He took us around the galleries and accompanied us to the People’s History Museum to make sure we didn’t get lost! We could not thank enough all the members of the Partner Institutes who spent their time and effort to make our visit useful. I wish to thank Adam Jaffer from People’s History Museum, Stephen Welsh and Campbell Price from Manchester Museum and Rhian Addison from Whitworth Art Gallery who went out of their way to help us while we were at Manchester. I also thank all the Curators and other staff who helped us during our time at Manchester.
Unlike at the British Museum, here the schedule was flexible enough to allow us to explore the galleries at a relaxed pace with more free time too. Since we were a small group of four, we could interact with our colleagues in a more focused and detailed manner. We shared our experiences, asked a lot of questions and learnt alot. We were fortunate enough to see their Collection and Conservation facilities, Cafes and shops, ongoing Special exhibitions, Visitor engagement activities etc.
I was totally amazed at how the Museum space is being used as a Wedding venue and rented for Corporate events and parties. I could never imagine that at my Museum. But it did inspire my thinking and I shall discuss with my Director about such revenue generation activities when l return. The Vivarium at Manchester Museum was another interesting concept. My Museum used to have a zoo in the early 60’s and most of the stuffed specimen in our zoological section came from there. Also the “Grow ”program of Whitworth Art Gallery which engages the community in maintaining its beautiful park is another feature which can be replicated in my Museum. Thus I have learnt a lot from my UK partner placement. It has broadened my vision and sparked a few ideas for making my Museum more meaningful to the community and its unified development. This programme also gave me an opportunity to know more about my team mates and we have become close friends.