The Walk – finding connection between history and future (Rucha Vibhute, India, ITP 2023)

Written by Rucha Vibhute, Senior Archivist, Museum of Art and Photography (India, ITP 2023)

Hello from Manchester! I am Rucha, I work at the Museum of Art and Photography, Bangalore, India. I am excited to share my journey so far of the ITP 2023. Before I start I would like to thank my museum for giving me this opportunity, the ITP team at the BM: Claire Messenger, George Peckham, Amelia Kedge, and Senior Fellow Ciprian Dobra who have been absolutely amazing in planning the programme and making us all feel at home when we’re all far away from our homes! And the absolutely amazing ITP 2023 family of museum professionals who have come from different countries. We have gone together for outings, had fun picnics and had long conversations about our cultures, food and museum experiences. Though the last three weeks have been extremely busy, it has given us great opportunities to learn about various functions of the British Museum, behind the scenes learning opportunities, and exploring the various aspects of museum management.

We are in week four here of our six week ITP program and I am in Manchester, our home for the next ten days at the UK partner museums with my colleagues Ninh from Vietnam, Elif from Turkey and Dina from Egypt. I have so much to share and a limited word count and so will try to keep it brief. We will be spending time at three different museums here: the Manchester Art Gallery, the Manchester Museum and the Whitworth Art Gallery. 

We arrived in Manchester and had an amazing welcome dinner with Campbell Price (Manchester Museum), Ronan Brindley (Manchester Art Gallery) and Steven Roper (Whitworth Art gallery) who are doing amazing work at their institutions and have been very kind in planning the programme for us at their respective institutions.

The 2023 ITP Manchester fellows pictured with Ronan Brindley, Campbell Price, and Steven Roper.

We had a warm welcome on day one at the Manchester Art Gallery. Ronan took us for a tour of the museum and gave us a brief overview of the history of the institution and the various functions and programmes at the museum. The various programmes that we witnessed at the museum are what I believe to be agents of change, such as the Family of the World and the Lions Den which is a space for programmes for families and young audiences where in one corner we can see a stack of cushions (inspired by the collection) and on both sides of the walls the artworks from collection displayed along with artworks created by children at the workshop.

Photograph of the display at Manchester Art Gallery

Creative choices can become the voice of change which can be seen throughout the museum, I will mention a few here such as the Out of the Crate exhibition, along with an exhibition on climate change called Climate Justice and Unpicking Couture in collaboration with the London School of Fashion. There is one project that really caught my attention called Uncertain Futures by Susan Lucy. There were various points of conversation about fundraising, creative choices, display issues, and challenges and how to overcome them. A great learning moment was a passage in the museum between two galleries exhibiting two exhibitions called Room to Breathe which gives viewers a moment to step back, sit and catch a breath. I would like to thank everyone at the Manchester Art Gallery for giving us this chance to get closer to the amazing work they do, and especially thanks to Ronan for being patient with us!

Photograph of the cafe and garden at the Whitworth Art Gallery.

Our day two in Manchester was equally exciting, with Steven craftily planning the day for us at the Whitworth Art Gallery. We got to meet Ed Watts at the amazing cafe which looks out at the park and has a breathtaking view. Ed gave us an overview of the function and various programmes at the museum. We met Claire Cowell who works part time at the museum as Age-Friendly Producer, she gave us an overview of the age-friendly initiatives by the UK Government, the initiatives in Manchester, and the initiatives by the museum, and we had an opportunity to interact with some of the participants and also see a live session which was going on that day.

Photographs from the age-friendly programme session,

I would really like to highlight the age-friendly initiative by the museum. Claire showed us the various programmes, approach, and planning that takes place to make these programmes welcoming and helps to build these programmes over a long period of time, such as sociable workshops produced by and for older people which focus on crafts and making things by hand. They have programmes focusing on menopause such as yoga sessions, lavender bag making or making a zine. These programmes are planned keeping inline with the current ongoing exhibition. We also got a behind the scenes tour of the collections storage and collections data management, just to mention a few of the learnings from today! Please read more about the museum here.

I have a lot more to share but going to stop and leave with a small seed to think about how small gestures and initiatives can have a deeper impact. It is interesting to me how museums can constantly grow and continue to bring in new ways to change the way they are perceived over the years. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has inspired us all to do more, do better, and to strive for change through positive reinforcement and make museums houses of knowledge, agents of change and to offer something for everyone who enters through those doors.