Museum is where the heart is, and it is in the Museum (Nilanjana Som, India, ITP 2022)

Written by Nilanjana Som, Assistant Curator, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), India (ITP 2022)

Emotions were high today! It was the last official day of ITP. The date is etched – 14th October 2022. I still remember the first day. Some of us awkwardly huddled together for a group photo at the BM. We had many group photos since then. Today was our last.

ITP 2022 participants take a photo on the British Museum collonade

We started this journey as fellow professionals and now will carry on as friends. I do not know when we will meet again. Some promises have definitely been made. Dana, Tatev and I have promised to meet Louise Smythe (National Museums Northern Ireland) at Belfast in a few years. I am sure we will visit each other in our memories.

I do not want to talk about my professional experience alone. I want to talk about the people. I want to talk about us returning to our childhood – giggling, teasing, rolling our eyes, keeping a seat at the table, caring, gossiping and waiting for each other to do things together. Yes, we did attend the endless sessions. We did learn!

ITP 2022 participants gather around a table displaying prints and drawings

During the past two years, humanity has suffered a lot. It is probably wrong to pretend that everything before that was alright. Many parts of the world continue to live under conflict, epidemy, unfathomable crisis. But the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the seemingly normal world. We are still confronting our losses.

In such a time, it was comforting to meet people (in a physical space) from different parts of the world who are trying to re-build a safe place in their own way. And that is what I believe museums are (borrowing from National Museums NI, my UK partner museum) – a safe place.

National Museums Northern Ireland

ITP generously gave us a platform to discuss. To have dialogues. To understand the importance of the work we do in museums. In this volatile time when social media has become the reality of most, the physical space of a museum is a constant reminder that the world is large. I am grateful to all the BM colleagues and ITP fellows who shared their knowledge, experiences, solutions and endless passion.

Roshan Mishra, Lotfi Belhouchet and Mohammad Al Qaisi pose for a photo in the British Museum Sloane Room. All three men are dressed smartly in shirts and jackets
Eneida de Lemos, wearing an orange top, takes a photo of a museum display

I want to thank my sponsor, the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust. I want to thank my colleagues at the British Museum, London and National Museum NI, Belfast for their time and effort and, congratulate all the UK Partner Museums for hosting us. I have such fond memories of the warmth and care of Louise Smythe (NMNI) for being a friend through my stay in Belfast.

My ITP would not have been possible without George, Anna and Roshan. I hope I can return the favour of your kindness someday.

Claire. There is no ITP without you. When I had met you in 2015, I had hoped one day I could be part of ITP which you have so carefully developed and nurtured. I am glad that now I am part of this enormous project and know this partnership will continue.

To everyone – Alaa, Altaieb, Asmahan, Beatrice, Dana, Eneida, Kezia, Lotfi, Mohammad, Omnia, Priyanka, Shahira, Tatevik, Yanoa –  what a journey!