Week 1 of the ITP: Thoughts and Feelings (Namrata Sarmah, ITP 2018, India)
The moment I joined the immigration queue at the arrival terminal in Heathrow, there was a roar unlike anything I have ever heard. Visibly shaken for a moment, I tried to locate the source of this unanticipated cacophony. An enormous crowd was glued to a large-screen television in the terminal. And to be honest I never imagined my first experience of London to be a horde of football fans cheering after an Argentinean team that had just scored. For someone who had just landed in the city, there was something oddly comforting about the entire scene; complete strangers bonding with each other over the World Cup. And despite the borderline hilarity of the situation, it just hinted about the warm welcome I was about to receive in the British Museum.
I was not wrong. From the airport, we were picked up and were driven to our accommodation at Schafer House. The next couple of days were spent getting ourselves acquainted with our colleagues and the staff at the Museum. There was a genuine warmth and welcome feeling everywhere. The fact that my colleagues in the ITP are drawn from such a multi-cultural and multi-national milieu was also a bonus point. Dr. Hartwig Fisher, the Director introduced us to the museum and informed us about the experiences that we are to gain in the forthcoming weeks. Drawn from different cultural settings with different approaches towards museum practices, the initial exchanges between ITP fellows proved to be quite a fruitful session.
The staggering number of collections in the Museum in itself is a wonder to behold. Drawn from almost every inhabited nook and corner of the planet, it made me genuinely wonder about the sheer scale of organisation that must have required to acquire this collection and to ensure its pristine condition till date. As someone whose academic interests lie in Asia, I was immediately drawn to the Asian sections. And to my utter delight, it contained references to many objects that I had read about during my graduate training, but had never seen first-hand.
As my professional engagement has chiefly been with the issues of storage, it was almost inevitable that I ended up in the stores of the Asia department. Here, again the scope and expanse of the collection was bewildering. And I was unable to contain my excitement with the anticipation that in the next weeks I would probably be able to engage with them. In all fairness, the experience as an ITP fellow has exceeded all previous expectations. I look towards the next couple of weeks when we will be able to engage ourselves as productive members of this institution.