Museum – UPSC GS1

CAG Audit of Preservation and Conservation of Monuments and Antiquities, 2013:

– The Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s Performance Audit of Preservation and Conservation of Monuments and Antiquities in 2013 had scathing remarks about the country’s poor acquisition, documentation and conservation systems.
– The audit also raised serious concerns about the “discrepancies in the number of antiquities reportedly available in museums” including the National Museum in Delhi.
Why Museum condition is bad in India?
  • No proper database:
    • An integrated database of existing and stolen artefacts, hardly exist.
    • Providing sufficient information regarding theft cases has been a struggle.
  • Not enough manpower:
    • Museums and the ASI remain gravely short-staffed with an inadequate number of licensing and registering officers.
    • No proper Maintenance:
    • Most of our public museums would perform miserably in a fire audit. Like fire, water leakages and flooding can wreak enormous and immediate damage, to museum collections and the public.
  • Inappropriate sewage and drainage systems, unhygienic and offensive garbage disposal arrangements, including heaps of junk and malba that are left to lie around for months and years, mosquito-infested environments, all pose health and safety hazards in government museums.
  • Wrong storage, handling and display, the dust, the humidity, the incomplete accessioning of invaluable objects, theft, also plague our public museums
  • Regular fire and safety drills are rare. Even in the best of our public museums, toilets are filthy, galleries damp and dusty, and very often much worse.
Solutions:
  • Initiate a review of fire safety at the 34 museums
  • One ministry:
    • To bring all public museums under the charge of one ministry, like the ministry of culture, could help if there was domain expertise and scope to standardise and streamline rules and procedures, including safety protocols.
    • The concerned ministry could become an advisory and watchdog body for the adoption and upgrade of museum best practice across all public museums.
  • Autonomy:
    • A museum cannot be run efficiently as a subordinate office of a ministry.
    • For a museum to achieve standards of excellence, it has to be run with a vision, a long-term plan, and the freedom to hire the best professionals.
    • Audit and accountability are critical, alongside a work ethic that valorises output and makes inaction culpable.
    • The existing, mangled and stifling management architecture has to be dismantled. This is long overdue. The government must seize the moment and place trust and faith in museums by devolving power
  • PPP:
    • Government museums are able now to explore public-private partnerships which often work extremely well to raise the quality of output, transparency and accountability, and contribute significantly to the income that a museum is able to generate on its own
    • Experts recommend building larger cadres of art historians, conservators and archaeologists to man important sites and museums to safeguard and maintain heritage.

 

The crisis in Indian museums is less of resources and more of imagination and commitment. Critically comment. (200 Words)
The dismal state of Indian museums especially the government ones is no secret. Various reasons can be attributed to it:-
  • Mere collection of artefacts ignoring viewers’ interest:-Museums should not be just a place of repositories of objects. Efforts should be made to make it people friendly so that they can connect to the place and engage with the rich collections.
  • No skilled manpower:-Leading to substandard maintenance, lighting and signage, among other issues. Proper training has to be introduced for better handling of such things.
  • Lack of expertise:-Often responsibilities of museums are given to IAS officers who are generalists and not any specialist. Barring few exceptions, it can be least expected that they would come up with any imaginative idea. Many a times they are given the responsibility of museums as a form of punishment which shows how seriously the matter is being taken up.
  • Lack of autonomy:-For effective functioning of the museums they have to be given the much required autonomy lack of which leads to ad hoc arrangements.
  • Few instances of collaboration with similar foreign organizations:-Such collaborations help to bring in the much required expertise and knowledge in proper handling of museums.
Museums are guardians of objects of historical and cultural objects. However they need to be handled intelligently in order for them to gain wide acceptance among the people. A great collection with average people will give an average museum but an average collection and great people often produces a great museum.