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What matters is heritage

Mandira Nayar

NEW DELHI: Delhi's cultural institutions big and small came together in one room for the first time on Tuesday. A small step that will hopefully be a giant leap in making museums relevant to the public, it is one move forward to make heritage matter.

While there have been many such meetings across the country organised by the National Museum Institute together with the National Museum and the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts to get museums to come "alive" again, the museums in the Capital have only now become part of the movement.

From debating about museums within four walls to museums without any walls, the resource people at the meeting talked about the problems of being the repository of history. With the number of people visiting museums across the city declining sharply in the past few years according to experts, it was time to reach out to communities.

"Training is important for staff at museums, but it is also important for the staff to communicate with the outside world. For example with the fire department in case there is a fire or even architects. There is a South Asian network for conservation professionals that we have started. It is a small community and the idea is that if we don't come together how will we make our voices clearer? It is important to create a network for people working in museums," says conservation architect Rohit Jigyasu.

Apart from linking together to share problems and discuss experiences, it is also important for museums to overcome the biggest hurdle -- to get people to be interested in them. Competing with various kinds of entertainment, the future of museums is not only keeping alive the world of the past, but also interacting with the world of today.

"The need of the day is to make museums relevant to community. There is a need to step up involvement of the community in the museum and the involvement of museums in the life of the community. If the museum is not interested in the `mohalla', why will the `mohalla' be interested in the museum?" asked the Director-General of National Museum, K.K Chakravarty.

However, involvement of the "mohalla" is not easy, feel experts. And forcing children into the dusty corridors of museums for class trips is not always the answer. With many such issues to grapple with, museums across the Capital will now come up with a list of concrete solutions that would be submitted to the Government for future assistance.

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