Art museums and the craft of democracy
The Prime Minister inaugurated the Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya at Teen Murti Estate in New Delhi.
- The Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya or the Prime Ministers’ Museum opened recently and is dedicated to all the former Prime Ministers of India.
- Teen Murti Bhawan was the residence of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and was converted into a memorial after his death, which has been refurbished to house the Prime Ministers’ Museum.
Plans to build museum through Central Vista Project
- The North and South Block buildings, which currently house the Prime Minister’s Office and important Ministries such as Home Affairs, Defence, Finance, and External Affairs, are being converted into India’s largest museum.
- Also, a new museum on Raisina Hill will be inaugurated by 2026 and will “vividly demonstrate different aspects of India or Bharat that always existed in a cultural and spiritual sense even if historical exigencies have prevented the attainment of nationhood”.
- Going by the current trend of museums, the narrative of museums will be mainly through augmented reality experiences, computerised kinetic sculptures, holograms, and smartphone applications.
- The present National Museum on Janpath will be disassembled and its collections will be shifted to a storage facility.
Significance of Museums
- Construction of art museums started in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries alongside the rise of nations, colonial empires, and industrialisation.
- In the olden era, the primary purpose of a museum was to nurture patriotism and showcase triumph.
- Museums play a significant role in showcasing the aesthetic, social, and scientific achievements of the people of the past.
- The exhibition of items from the past can be used to compare and analyse the progress of civilisations.
- The emergent countries after decolonisation built museums to bolster their national narratives.
Concerns over the recent plans of reconstructing National Museum
- Critics opine that the new museum will be constructed without acknowledging India’s cultural heritage and India’s diversity including its conflicts.
- Experts feel that the plan to showcase a bold new India by developing a museum on Raisina Hill, without many of the historical artifacts, is a return to an older era where the museum nurtured nationalism and showcased triumph.
- There are also concerns about what may happen to the priceless collection of cultural artefacts, unparalleled in their value to the nation’s heritage which are housed in the current National Museum.
- Also, there are no disclosures made on how the conservation of artefacts will be ensured during their shift.
Since cultural heritage is a crucial matter of public memory, significant decisions affecting heritage require the highest degree of public transparency, disclosure, and consultation.
Display of the collection of the current National Museum
The collections of the National Museum, at least the ones that can be safely displayed, should be displayed in the new museum. Such a strategy can also promote accountability and make the work of administering a premier cultural institution transparent to a broad public.
Display of artefacts depicting interconnectedness between India and rest of the world
Example: Seals that highlight contacts between ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley, coins and portraits to exhibit ties between Kushans and the nomadic clansmen of the Central Asian steppe, textiles and wood carvings narrating stories of traders moving between east Africa and Gujarat, calligraphy and miniature painting that depict contact between the Mughal, Safavid and Ottoman Empires. By showcasing the connected history of India and the world, the new museum can aspire to help visitors become better informed citizens.
Laboratory for the future
A strategy of building the new museum as a laboratory for the future by making it a sustainable and multi-purpose building. This can help understand history better by provoking a reflection on the past and fostering fresh deliberations.
- It is important to make sure that the new museums are not haunted by the spectres of a colonial past and are able to meet the basic obligation of promoting the democratic principles.
Prelims Take away
- Location Based Questions