Mahesh Kalra (India, ITP Fellow 2013)

Written by Claire Messenger, Manager, International Training Programme

This week we heard the devastating news that we had lost a valued and respected member of our International Training Programme (ITP) global network.

Mahesh Kalra joined us on the ITP in the summer of 2013 alongside 20 other museum and heritage professionals from around the world.  At that time he was curator and lecturer at the Dinesh Modi Institute at the University of Mumbai with a true passion for numismatics.

At the British Museum, Mahesh’s experience of numismatics, archaeology, museum studies & conservation meant he was able to bring important, wide ranging professional experience to the ITP 2013.  His passion for museums and the wider cultural sector was clear and his enthusiasm for the programme was infectious.

During his time at the Museum, Mahesh worked with colleagues from the Department of Coins and Medals on a project to develop a display for Room 68 (the Citi Money Gallery).  He chose his object (a hoard of coins) and wrote the labels and prepared the display.  While time was extremely tight for a project of this scope, Mahesh managed his time and workload through hard work and commitment.

Mahesh Kalra and ITP colleagues stand in front of Stonehenge

As part of the programme, our fellows take part in an exhibition project and Mahesh’s proposal, titled Gigantic coins of the Mughals, clearly demonstrated his knowledge, skills and experience but also his creativity and imagination.  At the end of the programme the cohorts’ projects are shared with supporters, colleagues and friends.  The evening was a great success for Mahesh and I remember him being so happy and enthusiastically sharing his project, display and ITP experiences with our guests.

Mahesh looks into a microscope at the British Museum conservation studios

In November 2015 Mahesh attended the ITP Mumbai Workshop Creating Museums of World Stories. The workshop was held at CSMVS and was attended by many ITP fellows from different years and countries, UK partners and British Museum colleagues. In his project group, Mahesh worked on an exhibition concept entitled Tehran: Jaan-E-Man focusing on the city of Tehran in Iran and while outside of his area of expertise, Mahesh took on the challenge with his usual enthusiasm, dedication and collegial spirit.

Mahesh Kalra attending ITP event in Mumbai

Despite his wide-ranging skills and experiences, Mahesh was always ready and willing to learn more and in 2017 we were delighted to welcome him back to the British Museum to participate in the first ITP+ Course on temporary exhibitions and permanent displays. 

Mahesh sits on the far left on a bench of ITP colleagues in the British Museum Great Court
Mahesh working with ITP colleagues on an ITP plus course

For me, what struck me most about Mahesh, was what an engaged and passionate person he was.  His dedication, energy and enthusiasm shone through – particularly when he was discussing his beloved coins.  He was a kind and generous colleague and friend, supporting and encouraging those around him, both during and after the programme.  He became a key part of our global network, not only attending further engagement projects and programmes but supporting the applications of fellow museums professionals from India in their applications to take part in the ITP.

Mahesh celebrates his birthday with a cake with candles, sitting around ITP colleagues in a restaurant

Since hearing this sad news, I have been touched by the messages and comments on social media celebrating Mahesh as a scholar and a friend.  His kindness and generosity clearly impacted on members of our alumni across the globe.  Making contacts and networks around the world and maintaining and nurturing them through a shared love of museums, culture and more specifically, for numismatics, clearly came naturally to Mahesh. 

We will miss Mahesh enormously and are thinking of his family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time.