ITP+ Mumbai: Thoughts on Day 1 (Namrata Sarmah, ITP 2018, India)
Written by Namrata Sarmah, Project Curator, Assam State Museum, Guwahati (ITP 2018, India)
For centuries, Mumbai has been a focal point in the Indian Ocean. Maritime routes carried endless waves of humanity to the city – Arabs, Armenians, Europeans, Jews, Parsis – in addition to the local population. As a result, the city has developed a diverse and composite character. And its tangible and intangible heritage echoes its colourful pasts. A beautiful coalescence of past and present wanders along the alleys of this bustling metropolis. On a personal and professional level, I always had an inexplicable fascination with this city. Hence the fact that this workshop by British Museum ITP is being held in Mumbai was a source of elation for me.
As delegates, we were warmly welcomed on our first day. Already acquainted with the British Museum during ITP 2018, I was familiar with their warm brand of hospitality. Being associated with the museum sector for many years, I was looking forward to this workshop as a fresh avenue for collaboration, cooperation and exchange of ideas with colleagues from different parts of the globe. In the modern world, marked by rapid politico-cultural paradigm shifts and technological disruptions, the field of Museum Studies has the potential to usher in new approaches towards learning and appreciation of heritage. Hence, the workshop intends to comprehend the role of museums in the question of education and vice versa.
The first day of the workshop witnessed some very erudite methodological interventions from the delegates in this direction. Fadzai Muchemwa from Zimbabwe talked about the issues of decolonising museum spaces. For both Zimbabwe and India, it is a very pertinent concern in the context of their colonial pasts hovering over their complex post-colonial trajectories. She elaborated on how the museum she is a part of was able to augment the audience footfall by 65% by investing in educational programmes for young people.
On a similar note, during the afternoon, Solomy Nabukalu (Conservator, Kabale Museum – ITP 2018, Uganda), Paul Michael (Education Officer, National Museum of Tanzania, ITP 2012, Tanzania) and Rashidah Salim (Senior Assistant to the Director, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, ITP 2016, Malaysia) also emphasised a more intensive engagement between museum collections and the younger section of the demographic.
Solomy spoke about engaging children from vulnerable backgrounds, with activities including object identification games, storytelling and object handling, and stressed the importance of making them feel at home.
Paul presented on a study at his museum with a questionnaire completed by primary pupils to assess their understanding of the national culture in Tanzania following a visit to the museum, giving evidence of the benefits of museum visits.
Rashidah highlighted the journey of a schools-museum partnership project, usefully sharing with us the challenges faced a long the way and adaptations to the project.
The British Museum’s Ed Lawless (Education Manager, Samsung Digital Learning Programme) presented on how digital programmes can offer benefits that go beyond knowledge and skills, offering learning opportunities related to attitudes and values.
And finally Jan Pitman, (Learning Manager, Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse, Norfolk Museums Service), talked to us about literacy projects at NMS sites Gressenhall and Time & Tide Museum.
In summary, the inaugural day can be considered a success. By immersing themselves in presentations, discussions and brainstorming sessions, delegates transformed this workshop into a promising outlet of ideas. The need of the hour is to retain this momentum, and to translate it to further action-oriented initiatives. While concluding, I would like express my most sincere gratitude to British Museum ITP for extending this opportunity to be a part of this event.